2018 Grainger Show Brings 12,000 to Orlando

This year's Grainger Show is the eleventh time in the series that the company has brought in customers by the thousands, Grainger Chairman and CEO D.G. Macpherson said.

ORLANDO -- The 14th #GraingerShow is taking place here this week in the Orange County Convention Center, bringing about 12,000 people to the event to take in educational sessions, a giant and busy expo floor, and an outstanding keynote opening speech on Feb. 11 by "Miracle on the Hudson" hero Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger III.

About half of the people attending the trade show are Grainger customers, and the others are Grainger employees. Grainger Chairman and CEO D.G. Macpherson introduced Sullenberger before his keynote and met with trade press editors on Feb 12 to discuss Grainger's business and initiatives, including its outlook for 2018, which has been boosted by the recently enacted federal tax reform law.

"I think the tone here is pretty optimistic from most of our customers, which hadn't been the case the past couple of years," he said.

Grainger under his leadership has focused its efforts on mature markets and pricing changes to make sure it is competitive. But price isn't the key concern for Grainger, he stressed, saying their goal is to partner with the customers, understanding how they manage inventory and ensuring that Grainger delivers the right products to the right places at the right times.

This year's Grainger Show is the eleventh time in the series that the company has brought in customers by the thousands, he said.

He described the company as having three areas of focus: provide the absolute best solutions, make sure it has the best sales and customer service teams, and optimize the order transaction process for customers. Asked where he sees the company, which just celebrated its 90th birthday, in 10 years, he said, "I want pretty much every user to say, 'Grainger is my solution.'"

About 60 percent of Grainger's business comes from ecommerce today, and Macpherson said he won't be surprised if that percentage reaches 75-80 percent in five years.

Brian Norris, VP of services and solutions, and James Finn, senior director of ecommerce and inventory solutions, explained how Grainger has worked during the past 18 months to put its KeepStock Inventory Management system and its vending machines on the same platform used for Grainger.com purchasing. This "omnichannel experience," as Norris described it, is a world-class ecommerce platform for not only procurement, but also inventory management, he said. The company currently has 65,000 KeepStock installations in the United States and it is one of the fastest-growing parts of Grainger's business with close to $1 billion in sales per year, he said.

Another focus for the trade press during the event was the company's response during a succession of major disasters in 2017 that included multiple hurricanes and California wildfires. Deb Oler, senior VP and president of North American sales and services, and Jeff Ragan, director of Sales Effectiveness, said the relationships company personnel have with customers and with federal and state emergency officials and the American Red Cross are critical for responding quickly and effectively. Each disaster is different and poses different needs from customers, but logistics is the biggest challenge they have in common, said Oler, who explained that Grainger sold about 20,000 generators per month in areas hit by hurricanes Irma and Marie last year and actually ran out of cots because so many emergency shelters needed them.

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