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W.W. Grainger Q2 2022 Earnings Call Transcript


Listen to Conference Call View Latest SEC 10-K Filing View Latest SEC 10-Q Filing

Participants

Corporate Executives

  • Kyle Bland
    Vice President, Investor Relations
  • D.G. Macpherson
    Chairman and Chief Executive Officer
  • Deidra C. Merriwether
    Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts

Presentation

Operator

Greetings, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the W.W. Grainger Second Quarter 2022 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] I will now turn the conference over to our host, Kyle Bland, Vice President of Investor Relations. Thank you. You may begin.

Kyle Bland
Vice President, Investor Relations at W.W. Grainger

Good morning. Welcome to Grainger's second quarter 2022 earnings call. With me are, D.G Macpherson, Chairman and CEO, and Dee Merriwether, Senior Vice President and CFO.

As a reminder, some of our comments today may include forward-looking statements. Actual results may differ materially as a result of various risks and uncertainties, including those detailed in our SEC filings. Reconciliations of any non-GAAP financial measures with their corresponding GAAP measures are found in the tables at the end of this presentation and in our Q2 earnings release, both of which are available on our IR website.

This morning's call will focus on our second quarter 2022 results, which are consistent on both a reported and adjusted basis for the respected quarterly periods presented. We will also share results related to MonotaRO. Please remember that MonotaRO is a public company and follows Japanese GAAP, which differs from U.S. GAAP and as reported in our results one month in arrears. As a result, the numbers disclosed will differ somewhat from MonotaRO's public statements.

Now, I'll turn it over to D.G.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Thanks, Kyle. Good morning, and thank you for joining us. Today, I'll provide an overview of our second quarter performance and pass it to Dee to walk through the financials.

Before I get to the quarter, I'd like to start with our Grainger Edge framework, which guides our strategy and behaviors across the company and with our customer and supplier partners. Over the last several years, this has been critical to our response to COVID and our efforts to gain share. Importantly, these principles that you see here, form the basis of what we expect of each other. Team members have embraced these principles to build better customer solutions, focused on what matters and moved faster to deliver value. They are more than words on a page. They are how we work together to support our customers and team members.

One example of the Grainger Edge helping guide our efforts is around ESG. Our principles of starting with the customer, investing in our success and doing the right thing heavily influence our approach. At Grainger, we operate sustainably and with a long-term approach to critical issues. Our ESG approach, which we have reported on now for 11 years is tightly integrated into the Grainger Edge and increasingly tied to our daily operations.

In our recently published 2022 ESG report, we discussed how we are organizing our environmental, social and governance practices as well as our 4 near-term priorities, which is where we believe we can make the most impact. These near term focus areas are, diversity equity inclusion, making sure that Grainger is a place for each team member feels welcome and able to get their best work. Energy and emissions, we continue to make great progress on improving our carbon footprint and we have significant plans moving forward. Customer sustainability solutions, helping customers reduce energy and water consumption. And finally, supplier diversity, which helps us identify and support great supplier partners to propel the business. Our team members have brought and will continue to bring these priorities into their work with our customers, helping them to achieve their ESG goals and creating even more value.

As highlighted, in the 2022 ESG report, we have recently worked with the State University to retrofit parking garage lighting, creating over $200,000 in annual energy savings, assisted a CPG company as they buildout their supplier diversity program and partnered with a nationwide hospital system in identifying their roofing vendor to install bio-based materials on roughly 500,000 square feet of rooftop, which will reduce greenhouse emissions by 39 million pounds over a 40-year period. These are just a few examples of ESG in action, and I'm incredibly proud of how our teams are continuing to their principles each day as we work with our customers, suppliers and each other to further our efforts in this area. I hope you will take some time to review our full 2022 ESG report, which can be found on graingeresg.com.

Turning now to our second quarter results. We had another strong quarter with sales growth of 19.6% or 22% on a daily constant currency basis. Our results were driven by strong performance in both segments. This included 1,000 basis points of market outgrowth in our U.S. high-touch business fueled by continued solid execution on our strategic initiatives and strong returns on our inventory and supply chain investments. Total company gross profit finished the quarter at 37.6% expanding 255 basis points over the prior year's second quarter. The largest driver of our expansion in the quarter was lapping the prior year pandemic-related inventory adjustment. Even when excluding that adjustment, however, we're still up around 60 basis points year-over-year with both segments contributing to the favorable results.

We delivered 13.9% operating margin, an increase of 350 basis points over the prior year's second quarter. This is primarily a result of the improved gross margin performance as well as our ability to continue to drive SG&A leverage on the top line growth. In the quarter, we delivered adjusted ROIC of 40.5%, a significant increase over the 29.2% generated in the second quarter of last year. We also returned $219 million to shareholders through share repurchases and dividends. It was an excellent quarter all around. As a result of the strong performance and the continued momentum we are seeing through July, we are raising our full-year 2022 guidance, which Dee will discuss in more detail.

And with that, I'll pass it over to Dee.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Thanks D.G. Turning to Slide 8, we cover revenue and margins at the total company level, but I'd like to highlight a few other key points. Our total company SG&A as a percent of sales was 23.7% a 95-basis-point improvement over the prior year's second quarter as we drove leverage from our top line performance. We continue to invest in our strategic initiatives, but remain committed to not adding unnecessary cost to the business. And our resulting EPS in the quarter was $7.19, up 68% versus the second quarter of 2021.

Turning to our High-Touch Solutions segment for the second quarter. We continue to see strong results with daily sales of 22.2% compared to the second quarter of 2021. We saw broad-based double-digit growth across all geographies and over 20% growth in both mid-size and large customers in the U.S. In the U.S. we continues to see strong double-digit volume growth and price realization of around 11% all helping fuel 23.1% daily sales growth. Canadian daily sales were also strong, up 11.1% or 15.5% in local days and local currency. It's been a long journey and we are proud of the traction the Canadian team has gained with their now fifth consecutive quarter of profitability.

For the segment, GP margins finished the quarter at 39.7%, up 275 basis points versus the prior year, driven primarily by lapping of a $63 million pandemic product inventory adjustment in the prior year period. Excluding this inventory adjustment, we achieved gross margin expansion of over 25 basis points as favorable product mix and largely neutral price cost spreads were partially offset by heightened freight costs. As we managed through this highly inflationary period, while there will be quarter-to-quarter fluctuations due to timing, our goal is to remain price competitive while achieving price cost neutrality.

Increased SG&A spend was driven primarily by higher variable compensation expense as well as continued investments in marketing, payroll and benefits to support growth. Even with the increased investment, we delivered 150 basis points of SG&A leverage year-over-year and when combined with strong gross margin recovery, Q2 operating margin of 15.6% was up 425 basis points versus the prior year period. Overall, the performance in our High-Tech Solutions business remains strong as our powerful value proposition continues to resonate with customers.

Looking at market outgrowth on Slide 10. We estimate that the U.S. MRO market, including both volume and price inflation grew between 12.5% and 13.5%, indicating that we achieved roughly a 1,000 basis points of market outgrowth in the quarter. While we know that our advantaged supply chain contributes to our success, we also continue to see strong growth with our strategic investments. We are excited about the returns that we are seeing on these investments, most notably, with our remerchandising and our data-driven marketing programs. Our continued success give us confidence in our ability to consistently achieve 300 basis points to 400 basis points of annual market outgrowth on an ongoing basis and through the cycle.

Moving to our Endless Assortment segment. Reported and daily sales increased 11.4%, up 21.1% on a daily constant currency basis after normalizing for significant impact of the depreciating Japanese yen. In local currency and local days, MonotaRO achieved 21.9% growth and Zoro U.S. daily sales were up 23.2%. The segment growth continues to be driven by new customer acquisition at both Zoro and MonotaRO and enterprise and repeat customer growth at MonotaRO, an impressive quarter of growth across the segment.

Gross margin expanded 100 basis points versus the second quarter 2021, and was primarily driven by freight efficiencies as average order values increased at both Zoro and MonotaRO, as both continue to focus on B2B customers. As planned, segment operating margin declined 25 basis points in the quarter, consistent with the first quarter. This decline was primarily a result of the new DC at MonotaRO coupled with continued investment in technology, marketing and payroll costs to support growth at Zoro.

Despite the increased investment, Zoro operating margins still improved 85 basis points over the second quarter of 2021 on strong GP improvement. As a reminder, the increased cost at MonotaRO will continue for the remainder of 2022 as they transition to their new Inagawa DC. We anticipate that the business will return to more normal operating margins in 2023.

In addition, we also continue to see positive results with our key Endless Assortment operating metrics. On Slide 12, you can see total registered users across MonotaRO and Zoro combined are up 18% over the prior year period. On the right, we show the continued growth of Zoro SKU portfolio. We are targeting about 2 million SKU additions in 2022 and will likely exceed that given our progress after the first 6 months. At the end of the second quarter, we have around 10.2 million active SKUs on the website.

Now looking to the back half of the year. With another very strong quarter and with July total company daily sales of 19% or 21% in constant currency, we are raising our 2022 full-year outlook. While we acknowledge that the broader market conditions remain uncertain, we have not seen a slowdown in demand in our business and continued to hear positive sentiment from our customers further supporting our revised outlook. Our updated outlook for the full year 2022 includes expected daily sales growth between 14.5% and 16.5% and EPS between $27.25 and $28.75, a 41% increase year-over-year at the midpoint.

We've also updated our supplemental guidance in the appendix, which reflects improved segment operating margins and narrow ranges for all other metrics. While it is not typical for us to change our guidance this frequently, our objective is to provide our most up-to-date view with each earnings cycle. Given the strong revenue and profitability performance to-date, we felt it was necessary to update our guidance metric again this quarter.

With that, I will turn it back to D.G. for some closing remarks.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Thank you, Dee. Before I open it up for questions, I would make just a few comments. While we may not know exactly what the rest of this and next year will bring from a market perspective, I'm confident in our team's ability to execute, drive market outgrowth and invest in the areas that matter most. The time that I spent with customers this past quarter has reinforced the pride I have on the Grainger team and our ongoing commitment to remain customer-focused.

I hear consistently that we have delivered to keep our customers working. As a result of our team's efforts, we have deepened customer relationships, becoming the trusted partner to many. We performed extremely well in the quarter, and I am confident that we will produce a strong finish to 2022 and remain well-positioned to serve our customers for the years to come.

And with that, let's open the line up for questions.

Questions and Answers

Operator

Thank you. [Operator Instructions] Our first question comes from Ryan Merkel with William Blair. Please state your question.

Ryan Merkel
Analyst at William Blair & Company, LLC

Thanks. Good morning and very nice quarter.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Thank you, Ryan.

Ryan Merkel
Analyst at William Blair & Company, LLC

So I wanted to ask a question on the share gains, which have been really impressive. I guess it's a 2-part question. So first, is the key driver of the share gains, the advantaged inventory that you have or have the initiatives also maybe added a couple of hundred basis points above that 300 to 400 target?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yes, it's a great question, thanks for asking. Yeah, with initiatives have added more than 300 to 400 basis points. We do on many of the initiatives, we do AV tests and we're able to track what the initiatives are bringing, and they've been very, very, very effective the last year or so. So we continue to see very strong gain from the initiatives. We are getting some tailwind from our inventory position as well. But the initiatives have been very strong into the performance.

Ryan Merkel
Analyst at William Blair & Company, LLC

Okay. And I guess the follow-up is, why don't you raise the share gain target if these initiatives are adding more than 300, 400, is it not sustainable or you just don't have enough evidence yet?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, I think more time will help us understand if this is going to be -- if we're going to get to a new norm in terms of higher share gain. Thus far we've committed to the share gain targets and we'll continue to talk to you about what we expect going forward.

Ryan Merkel
Analyst at William Blair & Company, LLC

Perfect. Thank you.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Thanks.

Operator

Our next question comes from Tommy Moll with Stephens. Please state your question.

Tommy Moll
Analyst at Stephens

Good morning, and thanks for taking my questions.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

All right.

Tommy Moll
Analyst at Stephens

I was going to ask if you'd seen any slowdown in demand, and Dee beat me to the punch, so I guess I'll ask in a different way. Is there any end market or customer anecdote that's not as positive as you could even hope for at this point? Is there anything at all that's changed? I just want to circle back on that because your comment you haven't yet seen a slowdown, it was pretty clear at the same time investors are searching closely for any signs of anything that's changed and there have been at least a few macro indicators that are in there?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, yeah. No. So let me just, we are not experts on every segment, but I will give you some observations, and a lot of this probably has to do with what we've seen through the pandemic and coming out of the pandemic. So if you look at our segment performance in the appendix of the materials, you'll see that slower growth markets, but still growth markets are retail, which has a lot of distribution centers, typically for us. That market was way up the last couple of years. So that has certainly slowed down, but still growing. Healthcare and government are still growing and have sort of accelerated recently again, but they are not as strong as general manufacturing, the industrial parts of the economy are certainly growing faster for us than the non-industrial parts right now. So that would be my observation. I think that's certainly consistent with what we're hearing from others as well. But I think the nice thing here is that we are seeing growth in all segments and the share gain is helping us.

Tommy Moll
Analyst at Stephens

Yeah, that's great. Thank you. Pivoting to a question on your technology investment for High-Touch. D.G. you've talked for some time about some of the investments you've made in the website, the products information systems, customer database, etc. Can you bring us up to speed on those initiatives, what inning are we in for this investment cycle, and I was going to ask if you could identify any of the fruit that's been borne out of these initiatives which you've already touched on a little bit, but maybe you could give a few more examples?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, and I would say, and I'll just plug for the Analyst Day, we'll talk a little bit more about this during Analyst Day for sure, but what I would say is the things we started earlier have proven to be very, very valuable around product information and publishing, which allows us to -- helps our merchandising efforts and website efforts and print publications as well. And so, we've seen really good results from that, we're starting to see really good results from the investment in customer information as well, in terms of things like improving seller coverage, improving marketing outreach, making sure we're sending the right message to the right customers. So we'll talk more in September about sort of what we have and what we plan to work on from a technology transformation that we really like the signs we've seen so far and we've had some very significant results.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from Deane Dray with RBC Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Deane Dray
Analyst at RBC Capital Markets

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Just first a clarification for Dee on the price cost neutrality. Just, is that on the margin basis, I trust?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

That is on product cost, and so, if you kind of go back when we've talked over a period of time, we try to focus on the inflation that comes through product versus what come through like transportation, and what we have noted is that we, our goal over the cycle or any cycle is to be price cost neutral as it relates to our product cost and to cover a majority of any incremental freight costs on a go-forward basis. And as you all probably know, we saw a significant acceleration of fuel pricing during the quarter, and we are working very hard to look for ways to cover some of that incremental freight cost, so it is not, let me say price cost neutrality. We're not talking about overall gross margin. It is a component within gross margin.

Deane Dray
Analyst at RBC Capital Markets

Okay, that's helpful. Thanks for that. And this is more of a nuance, but you lowered the high-end of the buyback guidance, in this quarter share count creep was up and it cost you $0.03. I don't know, it's more of a nuance, but just why would you lower the buyback and how do you feel about trying to contain share creep? Thanks.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah. So thanks for the question. And we are generally always in the market from a repurchase perspective. We're not specifically looking to attempt to try to tying the market with our repurchases, and we really try to balance that with our cash generation, and so it was nothing more than -- Q1 and Q2, we have some large cash payouts during those periods as it relates to our bonuses, some tax payments. So, it's generally just timing for us.

Deane Dray
Analyst at RBC Capital Markets

Got it. Thanks for all the color.

Operator

Our next question comes from David Manthey with Baird. Please state your question.

David Manthey
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Yeah. Thank you. Good morning, everyone. The High-Touch gross margin has seasonality. So I get the second half operating margin guidance relative to the first half, but in Endless Assortment the op margin look like it averaged about 8.3 in the first half, your guidance for the second half implies lower than that. I'm just wondering if you can outline what are the key factors that are pressuring second half profitability relative to the first half in Endless Assortment?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Well generally, we're continuing as it relates to MonotaRO to ramp-up our investments there and fund those investments for carrying 2 DCs, Inagawa and Amagasaki at the same time, so those ramp costs continue to have an impact on us. And similar to the High-Touch segment, the Zoro business is continuing to invest in marketing, payroll costs as well as technology to drive their long-term revenue growth. So it is just investments during the period of time. And as we get to 2023 specifically for MonotaRO, we expect their operating margins to normalize back to historic levels, and so we'll see some settling out at that point.

David Manthey
Analyst at Robert W. Baird

Okay, thank you for that. And then second, could you outline the impact of LIFO accounting on your results. We don't talk much about that, but if you could talk about sort of gross margin impact in the current quarter, the recent past, the near future?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Sure. We generally speak to or share our LIFO impact on an annual basis. So what I will say is that with us being in an inflationary period, it's very important as you can imagine to stay on top of standard cost increases with product and so we are doing that, and so we continue to have increased cost inflation within our inventory and COGS related to LIFO, but we feel like we're fairly on top of that, now that we've been in this situation for going on too. Well, I won't say 2 years, close to a year now. So materially in the quarter, it was really immaterial impact, but because we continue to update our standard costs on our inventory and cover that LIFO impact with price.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Hamzah Mazari with Jefferies. Please state your question.

Hans Hoffman
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Hi, this is Hans Hofmann filling in for Hamzah. On the Endless Assortment segment, specifically Zoro, where do you think profitability can go longer term from where we sit today and where SKU count can go? And then just, what does the competitive set or competition look like for Zoro? Thanks.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, I mean, so Zoro, what we talked about is we're in the past 10 million items this year unique SKUs. We expect profitability to get to the high-single digits over the next several years, it's on a very good path to do that. And from a return on invested capital perspective, it's obviously very profitable given it doesn't doesn't have the inventory position. So profitability is getting better. It's going to continue to get better. We think we can get to probably 20 million SKUs at a minimum for Zoro over time, but that's sort of a long-term effort, probably 4 or 5-year effort to get there. We'd expect, and yeah, and so competitive set-wise, it's a lot of digital players that we see, and there is a lot of amount there. But we continue to perform well, and I think we can gain share consistently through that model.

Hans Hoffman
Analyst at Jefferies Financial Group

Got it, guys. And then could you just talk about how you're thinking about headcount addition going forward, what you're seeing in terms of labor inflation, turnover and labor availability?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah. So it's been a challenging labor market to say the least over the last year or year and a half, I'd say. We feel like we are in a good position from a staffing perspective, particularly in areas that are so important like our distribution centers, we've been able to add significantly to our headcount, we still need to manage that effectively on an ongoing basis, and we are looking at what turnover we have typically at the distribution center, our biggest turnover is in the first year, people come in, they don't realize the jobs as challenging as it is, and they don't like the job, so we do see high first year turnover. Once we get people through that first year they typically stay and become long-term team members, that continues to be dynamic, but it's been certainly challenging. We've had to hire a lot over the last couple of years and we have had turnover in this population pools. Generally, we're very focused on making sure that we have the right staffing levels for the volume that we see, and then not adding cost where it doesn't make sense in the business. So we are being careful about sort of headcount additions outside of areas that are volume-dependent.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Nigel Coe with Wolfe Research. Please state your question.

Nigel Coe
Analyst at Wolfe Research

Thanks, good morning. I got a couple of clarifications and then one question on Endless Assortment. Just on the market outgrowth definition, the 12% growth in the market this quarter, is that price and volumes or is that just volume, just to make sure we're compared like for like?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

That's price and volume, the 12%.

Nigel Coe
Analyst at Wolfe Research

Okay, great. That's what I thought. And then just on the price cost, so essentially, it's an invoice price. So basically your invoice minus supplier invoice, that's how you define it?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Are you talking about price inflation?

Nigel Coe
Analyst at Wolfe Research

Price cost, so your definition, you said it's based on products, price months product cost, so it's actually -- okay. like the invoice, basically.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah.

Nigel Coe
Analyst at Wolfe Research

Okay, great. Just on the Endless Assortment, the growth in users is pretty consistent and pretty impressive quarter-by-quarter, just wondering what is the typical profile of the active users you're adding, how do you reach these users, kind of acquisition cost, any kind of help there would be helpful. And then just kind of how do you expect Zoro to perform in a recession, if these are smaller users, do you expect it to be more volatile, more critical perhaps. So what do you think that the underlying structural growth in that business can offset any pressures in a downturn?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah. So what I would say is the typical customer that we acquire is a small business customer. We have actually gotten out of some of the lower value marketplaces where we weren't getting business users as frequently as you want. So mostly business customers and relatively small business customers. We are then really focused on getting those customers to repeat, and we've seen really nice results through MonotaRO and Zoro over the last year in terms of increasing repeat rates for existing customers. And so that's been a nice trend and a very positive trend. In terms of a downturn, we would expect the underlying growth to be able to sort of power through the downturn. We would be affected by the downturn, but we still think we'd have significant outgrowth from the Zoro model given the way the model works and what we've seen in other downturns in MonotaRO and other places.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Christopher Glynn with Oppenheimer. Please state your question.

Christopher Glynn
Analyst at Oppenheimer & Company

Thank you. Great first half, and curious on the second half outlook, the HTS margin guide implies a little bit of a softer sort of tail off in the margin versus normal seasonality. I know last year was spent a little differently, so looking past that. But the taper is usually a little more than what's implied here, so curious if could comment on that.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

So this is again another year, this is difficult to forecast based upon what's going on in the marketplace. But as you know, seasonally Q3 is a lower gross margin point for us in High-Touch U.S. and we're planning and forecasting for that to be the case. And then we usually see a deceleration, seasonal deceleration with customers on the top line in Q4. And so we feel confident in how we have planned out and provided the updated guidance for High-Touch. Nothing to read into that other than we don't think the last couple of years are necessarily a great benchmark, and so we've gone back and looked at longer term trends to actually forecast how we believe the High-Touch U.S. business will perform for the remainder of this year. Taking into account our jumping-off point from H1.

Christopher Glynn
Analyst at Oppenheimer & Company

Great. And just on this price level getting 10%, 11%, what scenarios, within reason, would you see maybe price getting back and reversing a little bit or are you pretty confident this is a new baseline?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

So what we're seeing right now, it's fairly steady. It's hard to see it reversing itself, and I think if you go back and look over a number of prior cycles there, I think there is only one instance where there may have been a true give back versus just a slowdown and price inflation. And I think time will tell.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Josh Pokrzywinski with Morgan Stanley. Please state your question.

Josh Pokrzywinski
Analyst at Morgan Stanley

Hey, good morning all.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Good morning.

Josh Pokrzywinski
Analyst at Morgan Stanley

Just a question on the inbound inflation that you're seeing sort of how that's progressed over the last couple of months. I think you're starting to see some of the PPI indicators kind of plateau a little bit, obviously you guys are diverse across your repurchases. So just wondering what that looks like in terms of what you're seeing today in the marketplace as you go out to make purchases and maybe how that's trended over the past quarter?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

So, do you mean inbound transportation on product cost or all of it?

Josh Pokrzywinski
Analyst at Morgan Stanley

All in, but I guess more product and transportation.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Okay. Yeah, yeah. So we have not -- we've seen a stabilizing of purchase prices from our suppliers. We have had fewer requests for price increases in the last several weeks, then we had several months ago, for sure, but we really haven't seen any backtracking at this point. So it's stabilized, but still not going down, going up slightly, going up less than it was going up.

Josh Pokrzywinski
Analyst at Morgan Stanley

Got it. And on the, I guess, kind of related to that on availability, I think there's probably a point in time, further back in the pandemic, when there is a wider spread between what Grainger could get and maybe what some of your smaller competitors can get, how would you characterize that spread today?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Well, first, we don't know exactly what our competitors can get. So this is all speculation. It's still a pretty challenging availability market, there still is, certainly, the China shutdown didn't help anything and there is still areas of supply that are challenged. So I suspect we still have an advantage on some level, and I think some of the things we've done with our product information management system have helped us get to crosses which has been very important in the last year and a half to be able to cross to a functional equivalent. So we can get, if a product is not in stock, we can actually get customer solutions. So I think we have some advantages, and I would say that we are not out of the woods from a global supply chain in our industry and it's going to take some while to get out of this.

Operator

Our next question comes from Jacob Levinson with Melius Research. Please go ahead.

Jacob Levinson
Analyst at Melius Research

Good morning, everyone.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Good morning.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Hi.

Jacob Levinson
Analyst at Melius Research

At the risk of beating a dead horse here on price, certainly the 11 points you got in the High-Touch business is quite a bit higher than we've seen in some of your peers, but there are going to be some nuances, but if we peel back on then I guess the question is what's really changed this cycle that's allowing you to stay ahead of cost, because certainly D.G. when you took over that, maybe that muscle memory wasn't there. So just curious what's happening under the hood, if you will?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Well, I think one thing I would just say is that there's still a lot more reasons on cases, it's probably lower than you'd like if you're looking from the outside, because some competitors have taken price at different times. And so, what's changed is, we know we are market price competitive now and we spend a lot more time focused on that and the pricing changes we've made have been in line with market that we may have taken them at different times, later or earlier depending on how things go, but we're very confident that we are market-priced at this point and that's our primary tenet for pricing.

Jacob Levinson
Analyst at Melius Research

Okay, that's helpful. And just changing gears a bit on Zoro, still seeing growth accelerated over time and that's a different tone, I guess, than what we're hearing from other e-commerce players more broad way. So I guess the question is, how much of this is that you've got a better mousetrap with the investments you've made over the years in IT, in the buying experience itself, or how much of that is SKU additions or the amount you're spending on advertising. Just trying to get a sense of what it still like us, where you try to answer that success there.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, I think I think SKU additions are a big part of it. I also think that the customers we're going after our business customers. And so I think most of what you would see as compares in the digital space would not be business focused, so we think business customers are probably doing better than consumers online right now, and so that would be part of it too.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from Chris Snyder with UBS. Please go ahead.

Chris Snyder
Analyst at UBS Group

Thank you. I wanted to ask about customer inventory levels. One of the concerns that investors have on the distributors, is that industrial companies are reporting outsized inventory levels. Obviously, a good chunk of that is price, but I would appreciate any color or views you have on MRO inventory at your customer base?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, just to, I'll try to take this one, I think that the industrial manufacturers that are reporting higher inventory levels, my guess is that most of that is actually worth, when you visit customers now, there are many cases in which product is not MRO product. I will get to MRO product in a minute, but product generally is sitting around and you see it. And the reason it's sitting around is they don't have everything they need to actually produce, so they have strong demand, but they just can't get it out the door because they don't have everything they need to produce, and I have seen that at many, many customers that I visited in the last 3 or 4 months, I think that's the bigger issue. Our customers don't have stockpiles of MRO product, that's not the way it works. And in fact our value proposition is to make sure they have only what they need, and so our inventory management solutions and such make sure that we don't have too much stock. And so, I don't talk with any customer with a backlog of MRO product. I do see supply chain driven, work-in-process inventory issues at a lot of manufacturers.

Chris Snyder
Analyst at UBS Group

Appreciate that color. I guess, I want to follow-up for my second question on previous commentary around product availability across the industry, so at competitors. I guess, as industrywide product availability gets better and starts to normalize, what do you think that means for your business? It sounds like some of the market outgrowth could compress back to the target range, do you think that carries any risk of price cost as I'd imagine maybe some of those smaller competitors will look to get back their market share, any thoughts on that would be helpful. Thank you.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, I mean, of course, we haven't really gone through a period driven by a pandemic like this. So any answer here is speculative. I would say that more customer visits that I'm on, our ability to keep customers going has actually led to a lot stickier relationships, led to us connecting more directly from a digital perspective, led to us managing our inventory pools, we see very strong growth with our KeepStock and so things that we're doing on site are really valued right now. So I'm not overly concerned that that will be a detriment, are we going to outgrowth for 1,000 basis points every quarter now. We're not. But we feel like we can gain share consistently and that we've built the right relationships and processes to do that.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Chris Dankert with Loop Capital. Please go ahead.

Chris Dankert
Analyst at Loop Capital

Hey, good morning. Thanks for taking the question. It looks at the operating cash flow guidance increase is based principally on that better sales and profitability outlook here, but anything changed as far as working capital requirements for expectations into the back half of the year here?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Well, I mean, as you can kind of see our working capital needs have kind of grown with trying to ensure we have the right inventory and start to meet demand and to support our customer sales. And so, we see that trend continuing. I will say some of the AR growth is starting to stabilize here for us a little bit and just inside collections are strong, so we have no issues with collecting from our customers, but it's more a matter of ensuring that we have the right inventory on a go-forward basis. We still will have strong growth, as you know, in the back half, this implied by the guidance. So no big material changes, I'd just say a little bit more stability as it relates to working capital needs.

Chris Dankert
Analyst at Loop Capital

Okay. Well, and I guess inventory specific, we had expected some of those purchases to taper a bit or flatten out a bit, is that kind of still the case?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Well, I mean, that's not what you just heard D.G say, we still -- as our customers continue to operate, they will still need MRO product and we're building inventory on some SKUs, and on some SKUs we still can't quite build inventory. So we will continue to attempt to get inventory back and levels back to where we feel they need to be to meet demand.

Chris Dankert
Analyst at Loop Capital

Got it, got it. Okay. And I guess, switching gears to Endless Assortment, is the value per order there continue to trend higher, and I guess how does that trend on value per order compared to what some of the internal targets are for that metric?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

We see nice increases in our average order value for this, our business, and I think a lot of that has to do with who we're targeting, we're targeting only business customers and we found ways to avoid acquiring consumers, I would say, through that process, that helps average order value. We expect that to continue to get a little bit better as we continue to refine our processes to continue to get more repeat business from those business customers, but we feel like we're on a trend, it's been a little bit better than we expected actually this year from an average order value. So probably a little better than expected, but we're basically on the path we want to be.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question comes from Ken Newman with KeyBanc Capital Markets. Please go ahead.

Ken Newman
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

Hi, good morning.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Hi, good morning.

Ken Newman
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

I just, yeah, I just wanted to follow up on the comments you made earlier in the call about your retail and e-commerce sales. I think they were up mid single digits in the quarter, but can you just talk a little bit about what's embedded in the sales outlook for that portfolio, and maybe just a little bit more color on how customer behavior has changed through the quarter and into July.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

So we really aren't changing the outlook for, I believe, you're talking about our Endless Assortment segment?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

No, no. Dee, I've got it.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Okay.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

So you're talking about our retail segment within Grainger, just to make sure you understand what that is, that is a lot of distribution center, some is e-commerce, some is not. So we do a lot of work with big retailers that are traditional as well in terms of helping them. We expect that segment to grow slower the rest of the year versus other segments, for sure, we don't typically give out sort of segment level growth guidance, but we certainly are seeing trends that everybody is seeing. And again, I think the signal or noise there is probably not that as strong as it might otherwise be, because what we saw during the pandemic was those channels just explode. And so a lot of our growth was in retail, government, healthcare and now that's reversed because the compares are so high. So I don't think it's like activity is not strong it is, which is not growing as fast as some of the other segments are.

Ken Newman
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

Understood. So it's a deceleration rather than a true year-over-year decline within that customer mix, is that fair?

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

Correct.

Ken Newman
Analyst at KeyBanc Capital Markets

Got it. And then for my follow-up, I know there's been a lot of questions on pricing this call. Just again, can you just help me understand what are the expectations for pricing momentum in the second half within High-Touch? I think we are closer to pricing peaking here within the second half or how we already approach that?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

So as we go through the Q3, I kind of noted, it ends up being a low point for GM for us. We're looking at continuing to tap on any inflation that we may see, we have another opportunity to potentially do that within the third quarter, but it will be nowhere as meaningful as like our first quarter increases have been. So we are looking from a full year perspective for price to end around 9% to 10% range, and we're a little bit higher than that now. And so we're just looking to in the year price cost neutral, which is our overall goal. And so, and as D.G noted, while remaining price competitive.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

And the other thing I would say there to add to what Dee said is that the slowdown in inflation in the second half isn't really, is not resetting prices are lowering prices. It's basically the comparisons because we started taking inflation last year in the back half.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

We did. Yeah.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

So it's basically just on the compares to last year, that's the reason.

Operator

Thank you. And our next question comes from Patrick Baumann with JPMorgan. Please state your question.

Patrick Baumann
Analyst at JP Morgan Cazenove

Hi. The math on the guide suggest you expect SG&A to level off in the second half of the year versus what you just reported in the second quarter around $900 million. Maybe my math is off, but that's kind of what I was coming to. It looks like in prior years those cost kind of increase second half versus the second quarter. So the question is, if my math is right, which might be wrong, you can just tell me it's wrong, if it's right though what causes those costs to be flat sequentially this year?

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

So I think it's just timing of our investments, and so earlier this year, like in most years, we have our variable comp payout, and this year based on performance we were able to accrue some of those expenses based upon how we were running in H1 and settled out in line with our guidance and our forecast. So we don't see a lot of incrementality in the second half from that perspective, and we're continuing to invest at a more steady rate. And again, as D.G noted, we started some of those investments a little harder last year in the second quarter, so we're comping some of that year-over-year from an SG&A perspective. But the numbers are right.

Patrick Baumann
Analyst at JP Morgan Cazenove

Okay. So my math is right. Got it. A helpful color. And then Dee, also in the past you've been more specific on month-to-date trends when you report the quarter, is there any way to put a finer point on July, when you say that there is no slowdown in demand. Can I take that to mean that July sales are, we're still running 20% plus at constant currency.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yes.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

It was in our script.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

Yeah, we noticed that, yeah.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

It is in the script, I think you said, we are running close to 21% on a constant currency basis.

Deidra C. Merriwether
Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer at W.W. Grainger

That's correct.

Operator

Thank you. Ladies and gentlemen, there are no further questions at this time, I'll hand the floor back over to D.G. Macpherson for closing remarks. Thank you.

D.G. Macpherson
Chairman and Chief Executive Officer at W.W. Grainger

All right. Well, thanks for joining us. It's a pleasure to have you on. I hope you all get to enjoy the rest of your summer. Just a quick reminder, we are hosting our Investor Day on Wednesday, September 21. We hope you can join us in person if possible at our Northeast distribution center in New Jersey or virtually. We look forward to spending time with you there. And again, thanks for the time and take care.

Operator

Thank you. This concludes today's conference. All parties may disconnect. Have a good day.

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