Industrial Supply Wholesalers
Companies in this industry distribute supplies for machinery and equipment used in the manufacturing, oil and gas, and warehousing industries. Major companies include Applied Industrial Technologies, Fastenal, MRC Global, MSC Industrial Direct, Vallen Distribution, and WW Grainger.
Industrial supply wholesalers seek markets with a strong manufacturing base and countries experiencing high growth in manufacturing. In terms of GDP, the wealthiest regions are China, the European Union, the US, India, and Japan.
The US industrial supply wholesalers industry includes about 8,000 establishments (single-location companies or branches of multi-location companies) with combined annual revenue of about $74 billion.
Because industrial supply distributors sell products used in maintenance, repair, operations, and production (MROP), the industry is sometimes called the MRO supply or MROP supply industry.
The entry of online retailers, primarily Amazon Business, into the industrial supply wholesale space has disrupted the business models of traditional players and intensified competition. Online B2B retailers often offer price comparison tools that allow customers to select from several different suppliers, forcing some established industrial supply wholesalers to reduce their prices.
In response to the shifting competitive environment, traditional industrial supply wholesalers with brick-and-mortar locations have shuttered some operations and shifted resources toward online offerings. Companies are also differentiating themselves from the likes of Amazon Business by becoming more ingrained in their customers' supply chains, touting the expertise of service professionals, and offering on-site inventory management tools.
Price Transparency -- Allowing customers to compare prices online among several suppliers has given Amazon Business an edge against traditional players in the industry. Industry watchers have noted that to compete with e-commerce sites, companies may need to collaborate so they can offer competitive online quotes from multiple distributors.
Streamlined Operations -- Reducing operating costs is vital in an era when lower margins are the new norm. Amid pricing pressure from e-commerce providers, supply wholesalers are cutting expenses by closing underperforming outlets and divesting noncore assets.
Specialized Services -- Offering superior services can help traditional players differentiate themselves from e-commerce sites, which tend to be transactional in nature. Trained product experts, supply chain services, and inventory management can help companies build stronger relationships with large customers.
Companies to Watch:
Amazon -- Through its B2B offering, Amazon Business, Amazon has been effective in eroding market share and profit margins of traditional suppliers. Amazon Business has added customers rapidly. The company ships to businesses in more than 70 countries.
Fastenal -- The industrial supply and fastener distributor offers products in about a dozen categories. Fastenal has established closer ties with customers through on-site stores and vending machines.
WW Grainger -- The company distributes industrial products ranging from supplies to equipment and tools. To better compete with emerging e-commerce rivals, Grainger has adjusted its pricing strategy while putting greater emphasis on its online sales channels in key markets, including the US, Western Europe, Japan, and Mexico.
Products, Operations & Technology
Major products include abrasives, strapping, tapes, and inks (30% of sales); industrial containers and supplies (19%); mechanical power transmission supplies
Sales & Marketing
Finance & Regulation
Regional & International Issues
Also includes the following chapters:
Quarterly Industry Update
Trends and Opportunities
Call Preparation Questions
Glossary of Acronyms