Categories Earnings Call Transcripts, Industrials

WW Grainger Inc. (GWW) Q3 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

GWW Earnings Call - Final Transcript

WW Grainger Inc. (NYSE: GWW) Q3 2020 earnings call dated Oct. 22, 2020

Corporate Participants:

Irene Holman — Vice President, Investor Relations

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Analysts:

Chris Glynn — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Adam Uhlman — Cleveland Research — Analyst

Chris Snyder — UBS — Analyst

Deane Dray — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Nigel Coe — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

David Manthey — Baird — Analyst

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Hamzah Mazari — Jefferies — Analyst

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Patrick Baumann — JPMorgan — Analyst

Presentation:

Operator

Operator: Hello and welcome to the W.W. Grainger Third Quarter 2020 Earnings Conference Call. [Operator Instructions] A question-and-answer session will follow the formal presentation.

It’s now my pleasure to turn the call over to your host, Irene Holman, VP, Investor Relations. Please go ahead.

Irene Holman — Vice President, Investor Relations

Good morning. Welcome to Grainger’s Third Quarter 2020 Earnings Call. With me today are D.G. Macpherson, Chairman and CEO; and Tom Okray, SVP and CFO. As a reminder, some of our comments today may be 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 slide presentation and in our Q3 press release, both of which are available on our IR website. This morning’s call will focus on adjusted results for the third quarter of 2020, which exclude restructuring and other items that are outlined in our earnings release.

Now, I’ll turn it over to DG.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Irene. Good morning, and thank you for joining us today. Market conditions remained challenging in the third quarter as the pandemic conditions improved, but continued to way on many of our customers. Despite these challenges, Grainger performed well continuing to demonstrate our resilience and strength. I’m so proud of our Grainger team members have responded to the challenges of 2020 staying reliantly focused on further deepening relationships with our customers and supporting each other. I’ve shared with you our Grainger edge framework, which includes our purpose, aspiration strategy and the principles that define the behaviors we expect from all team members. These principles including starting with the customer, acting with intent, and competing with urgency provide clarity and focus as we continue to execute on our purpose to keep the world working and we’ll continue to leverage the Grainger Edge in all that we do throughout this pandemic and beyond. So let me start off with a brief business update and an overview of our third quarter performance before turning it over to Tom to dive into the details. On the business side, we continue to serve our customers well, support the needs and safety of our team members and ensure we remain in a strong financial position. A quick update on each point. Grainger has operated effectively throughout the pandemic first in support of essential businesses and now in serving all businesses. Each of our customers has a unique story on how they have been impacted by and managed through the pandemic. We have been there for all of them.

Sales to healthcare, government and ecommerce businesses remained strong in the quarter and we saw improving trends with manufacturing and commercial customers. I’ll address the pattern of revenue in a moment. Our world-class integrated supply chain organization which supports both our North American high touch businesses and our Zoro endless assortment platform has helped find and secure products to meet customer demand. We have successfully worked down our backup of orders for most pandemic related products, including mass and continued to work with suppliers to catch up on the few categories that remains scares, including some gloves and hand sanitizers. The team remains laser focused on maintaining our high-level of customer service. Customer feedback has been strong and improving throughout the pandemic. For our team members who continue to take steps to support not only their safety, but their overall well-being during this uncertain time. Today, we have managed the challenges of 2020 without major layoffs and currently have roughly 1% of our workforce still on furlough. Importantly, we’ve maintained a strong financial position. We’ve been diligent in controlling costs while balancing the need to continue to serve our customers, support our team members and invest where it matters most. Our strong performance over the last two quarters together with our solid cost containment have enabled us to relax a number of our short-term cash preservation actions. We exited the quarter with approximately $2.1 billion in available liquidity.

We continue to make strong progress on our strategic growth priorities during the short-term uncertainty. We have continued to execute our transform merchandising process to drive significant user experience to Grainger.com including our search and visualization capabilities, and enriched product descriptions and content. By the end of 2020, we expect to have remerchandise $2.8 billion in product through this new process, including $1.6 billion in the year alone. We intend to further accelerate these efforts moving forward as a result of our new product information management system that launched in the third quarter. Customer feedback on our website has improved significantly over the past six quarters. Marketing has been a large contributor of our US share gain over the last four years. We have improved effectiveness in both media advertising and paid search and plan to further invest in marketing given these strong returns. We continue to deepen relationships with our customers through our large customer multi-site growth initiative, enhancements to our KeepStock offering, and improvements to our sales strategy and effectiveness. We know that when we invent one or more of our service offerings with our customers, we foster deeper and longer lasting relationships. Over 60% of our US revenue is generated from customers with one or more embedded solutions. And, lastly, within our endless assortment model, we are executing the successful MonotraRO playbook of [Phonetic] Zoro here in the U.S. and are making strides in marketing effectiveness, customer analytics and SKU additions. This year alone we have added $1.5 million SKUs to Zoro pushing its assortment to roughly five million products.

Turning to our quarterly performance, we produced strong operating results in the third quarter. Organic daily sales finished up 4.6% in the quarter, underpinned by growth in our US high-touch business and continue to impress the performance of our endless assortment model. In the US we realized strong outgrowth to the broader MRO market as a whole which was down 5% to 6% in the quarter. Our gains were supported by pandemic-related demand, sales to new customers and improved sales of non-pandemic product as we started to see some stabilizing trends in underlying business activity. Overall business activity still trails pre-pandemic levels as some customers remain disrupted by COVID. The endless assortment model continues to deliver with 20% growth in the third quarter while also generating meaningfully improved margins. We remain very excited about the future of this business as we continue to adopt learnings from an Atro [Phonetic] to drive growth and profitability. At the total company level, we expanded adjusted operating margins by 90 basis points as gross margin stabilize sequentially and we demonstrated strong cost control. Tom will detail this in a bit. The business continues to produce a durable cash flow stream with operating cash flow of $311 million and free cash flow of $252 million. Looking at slide six, I thought it would be important to again show this chart to highlight the underlying trends with pandemic and non-pandemic products based on our current categorization of SKUs. Our characterization goes beyond traditional safety products to include product categories for substantial volume increases during the pandemic. Plexiglas [Phonetic] barriers will be an example.

As you can see while sales of pandemic-related products have decreased since May, continued demand for key products including masks, gloves and cleaning supplies has kept pandemic sales elevated year-over-year. This heightened demand has continued to come from a multitude of new and existing customers across numerous industries as businesses reopen and adjust to the new operating protocols. On the non-pandemic side, sales have improved since bottoming out in April. With non-pandemic sales now down about 7% year-over-year. This improvement has been seen across most industries or some of the obvious industries remaining the furthest below the pre-pandemic levels. These include airlines, hotels and cruise lines. Based on month-to-date performance, we forecast October sales to finish up around 2% for the U.S. segment on continued trends in pandemic and non-pandemic performance. Predicting the recovery over the next few quarters is very challenging. The path of the virus will have a big impact on whether the recent improvements continue, level-off or reverse. But we feel well-positioned to compete in any environment that comes our way.

With that, I will turn it over to Tom to talk us through the quarter’s results in detail. Tom?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, DG. Starting on slide eight, you can see we delivered strong results in the quarter. Organic daily sales, which adjust for the divestitures of Fabory in China were up 4.6% on a constant currency basis. This increase was primarily driven by share gains in our U.S. segment and continued impressive growth in our endless assortment business, which was up over 20% in the quarter. These gains more than offset pandemic-related softness in our Canada and Cromwell businesses. We saw meaningfully higher sales sequentially, but still remain well below pre-pandemic levels. Gross margin for the total company was down 170 basis point versus the prior year quarter that represented a 120 basis point improvement from the second quarter year-over-year decline. Margin pressure continues to be driven by pandemic-related headwinds, primarily in our U.S. segment as well as continued unit — business unit mix impact as we experienced significant growth in our endless assortment business. Our SG&A came in at $700 million for the third quarter, better than our communicated range of $715 million to $730 million. SG&A cost was down $60 million year-over-year and we captured 260 basis points of SG&A leverage in the period. This result stems from prudent cost reduction actions across our high-touch solutions model, including costs, lower costs as a result of our Fabory divestiture, and leverage gains with our endless assortment business.

This SG&A performance more than overcame GP headwinds to drive a 90 basis point improvement in total company operating margins for the quarter, a tremendous result in this environment. Incremental margins were up 50% in the quarter. As mentioned last quarter, the utility of the incremental and decremental margin calculation is diminished in this uncertain environment as the metric can vary significantly given the magnitude of top-line swings from quarter-to-quarter. We generated operating cash flow of $311 million, which we used to continue to invest in the business, build appropriate inventory to support our customers, and return capital to shareholders. Operating cash flow was 126% of net adjusted earnings in year-to-date adjusted return on invested capital is over 29%.Give our solid results of the last couple of quarters combined with stabilizing trends in underlying business activity, we fully repaid our revolving credit facility, increased our dividend payment and are announcing today our intent to restart our share repurchase program in the fourth quarter. While we anticipate putting several $100 million to work on repurchases in Q4, we will monitor market conditions and optimize the amount accordingly. The favorable trends over the last several months give us confidence, that this is the right time to move forward with these actions. Turning to our U.S. segments, daily sales increased 3.1% in the quarter, driven primarily by volume, which is net of unfavorable product mix. On the product side, sales of pandemic related products remained elevated up 53% in the quarter, but as shown earlier have tapered off from the peak in March. Non-pandemic products were down around 8% in the quarter, but continued to show meaningful improvements from April lows.

We’ve also seen a significant uptick in new customer acquisitions, with some really encouraging signs of repeat buying. From a customer perspective, we saw improved growth, with both large and mid sized customers, with the ladder growing 6% in the quarter. And improvement, from the 6% decline year-over-year we saw, in Q2 2020. Gross margins of 36.4% was down, 160 basis points, compared to the third quarter of 2019. When improved sequentially from the 310 basis points, year-over-year decline we saw in the second quarter of 2020. The unfavorable variance and gross margin was driven by, mainly by two factors that were similar to the second quarter. Pandemic related product headwinds and tariff yield cost inflation. Pandemic related headwinds contributed about 140 basis points of the gross margin decline, as we continue to see unfavorable product and customer mix, due to elevated sales of lower margin pandemic product. Beyond the pandemic impact, we continue to face pressure in the quarter, due to the lapping of year-over-year cost inflation, which was driven partially by tariffs that went into effect in 2019. This drove approximately 80 basis points of year-over-year margin decline. Based on what we know now, we expect that both of these gross margin headwinds will continue into the fourth quarter. It should be noted, that we anticipate the tariff headwinds will fully subside, as we move into 2021. Offsetting these two factors in the quarter, was a 60 basis points tailwind related to favorable freight costs, driven by non-recurring shipping efficiencies and timing. We do not expect these freight dynamics to continue in the fourth quarter. From an SG&A perspective, we gained 160 basis points of leverage, with cost decreasing approximately $22 million year-over-year.

The reduction was driven primarily by decreased travel expenses, lower labor related costs, and general operating efficiencies. Operating margin remained flat to the prior year quarter at 15.1%, as SG&A leverage offset gross margin headwinds. Return on invested capital was a very healthy 38%.Drilling into our U.S. sales performance on slide 10, while we estimate the U.S. MRO market declined between 5% and 6% in the third quarter. Grainger was able to capture roughly 850 basis points of outgrowth, fueled by pandemic related sales, selling to new customers, and improving sales of non-pandemic product. Despite the challenges of 2020, U.S. segment daily sales are up 2.1% year-to-date and we have outgained the broader MRO market by over 900 basis points through the first nine months of 2020. Moving to our other businesses, organic daily sales increased 12.5% or 12.3% on a constant currency basis. The endless assortment business grew at approximately 20% fueled by strong results at both MonotraRO and Zoro during the quarter. Zoro continues to execute the MonotraRO playbook with improvements to marketing effectiveness, discounting strategies and better cost leverage all helping to drive improved performance. Although we saw significant sequential improvement compared to the second quarter, our international high-touch businesses continued to be impacted by pandemic-related shutdowns with both Mexico and Cromwell seeing year-over-year declines. Operating margins for other businesses are up, 190 basis points, 35 basis points, which is due to the divestiture of our Fabory and China businesses, which produced below system profitability in the prior year.

The remaining operating margin favorability was driven by significant SG&A leverage across the portfolio, most notably within our endless assortment business, which continues to do a nice job levering its cost base. This leverage was only partially offset by gross profit headwinds from incremental freight cost at MonotraRO. Turning to slide 12. In Canada, daily sales decreased 9.9% or 9.1% in constant currency. The decline is comprised of roughly 8% decline in volume and price headwinds, including customer mix of approximately 1%. While volumes in Canada continue to be impacted by the pandemic-driven economic slowdown, the business did improve sequentially and is gaining traction with hospitals, manufacturing, and higher education customer. As a Canadian business continues to integrate and leverage our U.S. resources, we are making progress with our customer diversification efforts and are pleased with the trajectory of this business going forward. Gross profit margin at Grainger Canada declined 35 basis points year-over-year, driven by pandemic-related mix headwinds, which were offset partially by lower freight costs in the quarter. Cost management remains strong with savings of $5 million year-over-year resulting in a 110 basis points of SG&A leverage. Total operating margins were up 75 basis points versus prior year, despite the top line challenges. Before I turn it back to DG, similar to the last couple quarters, I want to give you a sense of how we’re thinking about things in the fourth quarter. From a sales perspective, month-to-date trends support our estimate for October year-over-year sales growth to be up over 4% at the total company level on an organic constant currency basis.

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This October month end estimate is reflective of continued solid growth in our U.S. segment coupled with strong performance in endless assortment. From a gross margin perspective, as I previously mentioned, we anticipate gross margin pressure will continue, as the pandemic related impacts and tariff field cost inflation headwinds will persist into the fourth quarter. The one-time freight tailwind we realized in the third quarter will falloff. Further, we anticipate year-over-year cost headwinds in the fourth quarter, as the already stretched global shipping providers pass through freight surcharges, during the busy holiday season. Given these factors and based on what we’re currently seeing, we anticipate gross margins will be down over 200 basis points year-over-year. With respect to SG&A, we expect to see sequential increases in a couple of areas, primarily related to some incremental technology investments to support growth in the U.S. and at MonotraRO, which will push our estimated SG&A to between $725 to $740 million for the fourth quarter. As always, we remain focused on managing near term headwinds, while continuing to invest in long invent term growth, particularly in people, processes and technology, where and when it makes sense.

With that, I’ll turn it back to DG for some final thoughts. Thanks, Tom.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Tom. So I’m proud of our results for the quarter. And I want to thank our team members for their commitment to safety and customer service. We have gained share improved our merchandising and marketing capabilities, deepened our customer relationships, expanded our assortment while improving margins and thorough and significant financial flexibility to support the business moving forward. We remain committed to fulfilling our purpose of keeping the world working throughout this pandemic, as well as continued to execute our strategy, so we can achieve this purpose for years to come.

And with that, we will open up the line for questions.

Questions and Answers:

Operator

Operator: Thank you. We will now be conducting a question-and-answer session. [Operator Instructions] Our first question today is coming from Chris Glynn from Oppenheimer. Your line is now live.

Chris Glynn — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Hey, thanks. I was curious. You mentioned the customer acquisition trends still going strong. And conversions to some regular customer dynamics are going well. Just wondering if you could further dive into that topic and how it informs early view of share out performance for 2021?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Great, thanks, Chris. So yeah, so we’ve had, as you might guess, given inventory positions, we have had a whole bunch of new customers, sample Grainger, and Zoro, MonotaRO, frankly. As we’ve had elevated customer acquisitions through this period, the good news is that, those who have repeated the numbers much higher than in the past, the repeat rates are similar to the past, but we have a much bigger funnel. And we’re starting to get those customers to be regular purchasing customers. So we see really nice, attractive customer acquisition through this period. And we think that really helps bode well for the future. We feel very confident in our 300 to 400 basis point our growth of the US business, in the 20% growth expectations for the endless assortment. And we have no reason to change those right now. This year, we’ve obviously been higher than that that number in the U.S. We would expect to be in that range and to for hire to be in that range moving forward.

Chris Glynn — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Okay. And then a follow up, would you anticipate the 3Q pandemic sales, using October as a proxy might approximate the sustainable run rates as long as workplaces are very germaphobic? Or is that still waiting influx?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I think that’s a that’s a very interesting question. And I don’t think anybody has the answer. What we’re seeing right now is elevated pandemic sales. We expect that to continue and certainly as case rates rise, which we’ve seen recently, we would expect that that to continue through the fall. What happens when we have better treatments and a vaccine is probably a question that is on our minds, and it’s probably impossible to answer? We would expect some of that to moderate, but we do think people are going to be more cautious of safety and cleanliness for some period after that as well. But for now, we’re seeing similar trends to what we’ve seen in the past. We would expect that to continue in the fall and given the rate of transmission.

Chris Glynn — Oppenheimer — Analyst

Thanks DG.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thanks. Our next question today is coming from Chris Dankert from Longbow Research. Your line is now live.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Hey, morning guys. Thanks for taking my question. I guess first off, what’s the status of investment in Zoro? I mean, in the past, we’ve mentioned that 50 million of investment in ’19 largely rolls off this year, I guess. Are we still on pace to get to mid single digit EBIT margin plus the other business in ’21? Just thoughts on investment that would be really helpful I think.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Sure, so we had a very heavy investment period in the back end of ’18 and ’19 with Zoro. Many of those of those investments took several forms. One was technology. Another was people in getting the talent to be able to have had their own destiny in terms of product ads and the like. And so, we made those investments, those investments are behind us, we start to see those — starting to see those leveraged themselves now. This year, we’re getting improved operating margins in Zoro. We think the long term path for Zorro from a margin perspective is as we discussed, we’ll talk about next year in January, but we have no reason to believe the positivity that we’ve seen will continue. And we still think that is going to be a high single digit operating margin business in the next several years and so that’s the path for that business.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Got it? Got it. I didn’t think about SGA. I mean, compared to what the guidance was, again, coming in below that range, my apologies if I missed it, but just what was the key moving parts on what helps you kind of cut that SG&A number even lower in the third quarter here?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, thanks.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, sure. Thanks. Thanks, Chris. First of all, there was a little bit, there was wind data, just with the savory divestiture and that takes the 60 million down to about 40 million. But then we just had real good efficiency across the board, everything from travel and entertainment, professional services, cleaning supplies, security, just a real good focus by the team in terms of efficiency and cost control. And one of the great things with the pandemic is, we’ve always been cost conscious, but I think we’ve really upped our game. And I think it’s going to continue going forward, where we’re really in this mode of operating this way. So, just to summarize really good cost control across the board, while continuing to spend in advertising and technology which are important for us.

Chris Dankert — Longbow Research — Analyst

Got it. Glad to hear it. It’s a broad base savings, certainly. so congrats again on the quarter and thanks for my question again.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thank you.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Chris.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Adam Uhlman from Cleveland Research. Your line is now live.

Adam Uhlman — Cleveland Research — Analyst

Hey, guys. Good morning.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Adam Uhlman — Cleveland Research — Analyst

Sticking with the SG&A question, I guess the freight dynamics that you pointed out for the third quarter and the fourth quarter, pretty interesting. As the surcharge rate kind of transitions into base rate increases, I’m wondering if you could help us ballpark just how meaningful of a headwind that that could be for 2021 or perhaps it’s not a headwind and you have some other levers to pull to offset that. And maybe you could just remind us about how you charge customers for freight. I believe most customers don’t pay, but maybe discuss that as well?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Sure. So I would say that it’s a great question. Most customers, our largest customers and contract customers often don’t pay for parcel. They often pay for LTL or large shipments. The surcharge that Thomas was referring to you is really around large packages during the peak season. And we will charge for some of that. We expect to recoup some of that. We don’t expect to recoup all of that. And that doesn’t have much to do with what happens into next year. So we’ll talk about next year obviously after this quarter. I would say, certainly the freight business, given the number of shipments going to people’s houses, has become strained. And we’ve seen some pressure that does not mean, though, that the surcharges happen in the fall necessarily translate into going forward, we’ll talk about that. And we think we’ve got initiatives and actions to help mitigate that moving forward but we’ll talk about that at the end of the year.

Adam Uhlman — Cleveland Research — Analyst

Okay, great. That’s good to hear. And then, secondly, you know, the company has been building up inventory and I was curious, one, if you could talk about your inventory and working capital assumptions in the medium term. And then, secondly, if you are concerned at all of observing losses on any pandemic inventory that you might be taking if — hope we have some good luck and the pandemic starts to roll-off and market pricing deteriorates further. Thanks.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so let me take those, and, Tom, you can add to them if you think I miss anything. So, in terms of inventory there’s really two areas where we’ve built inventory and will continue to do so through the latter part of the year. The first one is sort of normal, which is we are starting full up in 2021. And so as that comes on, we obviously stock that building. That’s partially stocked now. But because of more fully stocked as we go through and that’s a part of what you’ve seen. The other part is pre-buys for pandemic-related product. I would say to your question about do we have risk on excess obsolescence with that product? Part of what you see in terms of with us, in terms of pandemic GP already embeds some write-downs. We obviously, to make sure we can serve our customers, took positions in a whole bunch of products in the height of the pandemic. And some of those, the price cost has changed, some of those we haven’t seen movement in a lot of those. We’ve seen movement and it’s gone very well. But in that messiness to serve customers, which we think has been really, really important, you’re already seeing that in some of the GP rates that you’re seeing is us take that. We think that we’re in good position. Most of the inventory, though, to be clear, has been pre-buys on products that has very low risk. We know, suppliers, we know product, we know product that will sell in any case, but trying to get out ahead of that, in case the fall in the winter is really, really bad. And so most of that is not higher risk than normal, but certainly in some of the speculative buys and things we took in the harder pandemic, you’ve already seen some of that come through in terms of GP.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. Just to just add a little bit more color on an inventory and cash. One of the things that we’ve been very efficient on is our management of cash. And you’ve seen that in this quarter, more specifically, our cash conversion cycle, our DSO is actually down year-over-year, a couple of days. And our DPO is actually favorable by more than a few days, which has allowed us to keep a overall cash conversion cycle that is very healthy versus last year, and invest in the inventory so we can play our role as an essential business and support the customers the way we need to. So you’re right, inventories up since the beginning of the year 8%. It’s at $1.78 billion we’ve invested in working capital, it’s up $220 million. And, we did put pandemic inventory spend in the quarter of approximately $300 million. And as DG said, I mean, you’re not going to pay $1,000 on all of that. So we go through the normal and old process, and I guess the way I would describe it is we’re very aggressive operationally, but very conservative financially, so doing the right thing to reserve. So thanks for the question.

Operator

Thanks. The next question today is coming from Chris Snyder from UBS. Your line is now live.

Chris Snyder — UBS — Analyst

Thank you for the question. Just wanted to follow-up on endless assortment margins, I understand there’s like a longer term high single digit target out there for Zoro. But with the back office investments slowing, what kind of incremental margins could we expect for this business as top-line continues to ramp?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, it’s a good question. We really don’t look at incremental margins, specifically on the endless assortment business, just because the supply chain is so intertwined. And the synergies with the broader business, so we really look at the business as the incremental margin for the overall entity.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, Tom, I would just add. I mean, if you look at incremental margins with MonotaRO typically you’re talking about 15% to 20%, which is just GP minus the variable marketing cost, and so, I would expect us to get to something like that over time at Zoro. But that’s typically we see in MonotaRO I think.

Chris Snyder — UBS — Analyst

Appreciate that. And then just following up on MonotaRO. So the stock is up 100% year-to-date in Tokyo last I checked. Can you just talk about how you kind of view that business strategically at Grainger?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, we view — sure, so we view both the endless assortment and high touch solutions model is absolutely core to what we do. Masaya Suzuki who is the leader of that business now also leads Zorro. We are sharing best practices and analytics and working together to ensure that we’re actually making progress across those two business center and our business in the UK as well. So we view it as absolutely core to what we do right now. And we’re getting a whole lot of leverage from that miniature team in terms of learnings and building the business at Zoro for the future. So we are running those very tightly together.

Chris Snyder — UBS — Analyst

Appreciate that. Thank you for the time.

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Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Deane Dray from RBC Capital Markets. Your line is now live.

Deane Dray — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. I was hoping we get some color on the — additional color on the Gross margin guidance for the fourth quarter down 200 bps. Is there any way you can parse out what the pandemic sales would be versus non-pandemic sales? Just trying to get a sense of what the core gross margin trajectory might be? Thanks.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I think the way to look at it Deane is — we said the pandemic impact is 140 basis points for this quarter and the cost other is 80 basis points unfavorable bad guy. And we had the one-time freight of 60. So, if you remove the 60 from 140 and the 80, you get to 220. Now we think that the pandemic will likely improve. Obviously, it’s very volatile. We say you get roughly a 20% improvement on your cost inflation as well as your pandemic that gets you to around 200-ish%. And then you throw-in the freight headwinds that we think we might experience at the end of the year as DG discussed with the surcharges, and that gets you above 200%.

Deane Dray — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

That’s really helpful. And then, I was hoping to get some additional color on the October sales. Just the extent that you can anything that you think would be help regarding geographic, customer sizes, anything else about the mix that would be a big help here. Thank you.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I think, Deane, if you looked at sales revenue performance, July, August, September, October, you’d be hard-pressed to see much of a difference across those months. We’ve seen a little tail-off in pandemic and a little improvement in non-pandemic. But pretty much the trend has been very, very similar across all of those months. So the trends we’ve seen and the performance we saw in the second quarter really just appears to be — third quarter just appears to be continuing in October at this point.

Deane Dray — RBC Capital Markets — Analyst

Got it. And just lastly, an observation. I’ve certainly heard the Grainger spot ads on business radio pretty frequently and the brand building. So I think it’s pretty effective. Thank you.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thanks, Deane.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Thanks, Deane.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Nigel Coe from Wolfe Research. Your line is now live.

Nigel Coe — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Thanks. Good morning. Thanks for the questions. I’m going to pickup on that 4Q gross margin guidance. So roughly 200 basis points down from 38% last quarter gets 36%, which should be up from this quarter, so I just wanted to make sure that that math kind of still holds that we’re looking for what would be a steady normal sequential pickup in gross margin percentage from 3Q.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Tom, do you want to take that one?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I’m sorry. I was on mute. Nigel, I think another way to look at it is our absolute gross margin should be very similar to Q3. And then when you just look at the comparison to prior year, it’s going bump it over 200. So that’s the other way I was look at it.

Nigel Coe — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Okay. That’s fair. And then the mid-sized customer growth was pretty impressive. And nice swing from what we saw last quarter. And I’m just curious, are we seeing, obviously, a lot of your competitors, especially, the smaller competitors and one or two larger ones have employed a very high touch distribution model. And I’m wondering if we’re seeing a switch towards perhaps more low touch, direct ship, e-commerce type sales, and maybe some supply consolidation. I mean, anything you’ve seen that in the market?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I would say we certainly seeing more digital sales through the pandemic. I think we’ve seen that in almost every industry and ours has been no different. What I would say is that we are seeing improvements in mid-sized customer growth from digital actions, but also from inside sales actions. So, that is more of a touch, but we’re seeing nice growth across both of those contact points. And so, yeah, I would say it’s fair to characterize as more digital, but not all digital. We’re also seeing some nice growth through some of our other actions that are more high touch.

Nigel Coe — Wolfe Research — Analyst

Okay. That’s helpful. Thanks.

Operator

Thanks. The next question today is coming from Josh Pokrzywinski from Morgan Stanley. Your line is now live.

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Hi. Good morning guys.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Just a couple of questions. It was covered a lot of ground already, but one thing I want to be sure on, if you don’t mind, Tom, on endless assortment clearly some good leverage happening there. But just wondering if anything is happening inside of Zoro or MonotraRO for that matter with mix. Obviously, in the middle of pandemic, we can talk about like pandemic mix and safety products, right, I guess just more broadly, are people buying different stuffs and that is normally tuned up for does that have some benefit, positive or negative? That may not look like the ongoing model?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, I think the only thing that I would say and then D.G. please add is, we’re probably seeing more B2C customers and B2B customers in the pandemic. But other than that nothing out of the ordinary.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I mean, so one of the things that I would say this, that’s modeled the pandemic a little bit in terms of results has been with so many people working from home. Sometimes the business and the consumer tends to blur. I’ve listened to a bunch of contact center calls. And it’s fascinating that there’s a lot of people at home, maybe buying things for businesses, but also sometimes delivering to their home. And so we think we’ve had more consumer acquisition than normal, we don’t remarket to consumers, whether it’s Zoro or Grainger. And what we do know is that the business customer acquisition has been very solid, very strong. And the attractiveness of those customers has been every bit as strong as we’ve seen in the past. So we’re happy with beasties besides having to sort of shift through consumer business, the business that we’re sure this business has been very strong. And that’s been that sort of key for us.

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Got it. That’s helpful. And then sounds like Dean’s going to be a future customer here based on the effectiveness and marketing. So maybe you can close that lead.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

He’s not the target segment. I can assure you that.

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Understood. And that just on the inventory question, yeah, I know, someone asked earlier about, the inventory build there anything on kind of a seasonally uncommon liquidation in the fourth quarter that you’re planning that may be dragging that down impacting not at all, just thinking about historically usually build a little inventory in the fourth quarter sequentially. Is that something that happened earlier? Is that playing into that dynamic at all on the gross margin?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

It’s playing into it. It’s playing into it a little bit. As we said on the previous question, we’ve been very aggressively operationally from an inventory perspective, because it’s the right thing to do, and we want to have the product available for our customers. But on the other hand, we’ve been conservative financially. So, part of the gross margin deterioration that you’ve seen in Q3 is in E&O headwind, cleaning up some of the buys that, you know, didn’t exactly thread the needle. So we’ve tried to do most of that in Q3. We’ll see a little bit in Q4, as well. And then we believe that that’s going to be behind us going into 2021. We’ll have the right product to serve our customer. And then if anything, we’ll have a tail wind as we unwind some of those reserves when the products that we have reserved potentially will be available for sale.

Josh Pokrzywinski — Morgan Stanley — Analyst

Got it. That’s helpful. Thanks so much.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from John Inch from Gordon Haskett. Your line is now live

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everybody. Hey. Assuming PPE sales, which you would assume, right, to happen as the market’s been saturated naturally continue to trend lower. As we roll into 2021, what kind of a — kind of an absolute sales headwind could this prospectively represent. And you guys have had very strong opex control I don’t think I’ve heard this in the discussion thus far. What kind of costs are you thinking about are going to have to come back next year as you sort of flip from PPE to kind of a more normalize normalized volume trajectory for other products.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think there’s a lot in that question, John.

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

Yeah.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

I would say that it’s hard — it’s really difficult to project the PPE trend. What we’ve seen since April, in April we saw PPE up almost 100% pandemic product, what we thought pandemic, that includes more than PPE. We saw sort of normal volumes down 20% in April. And what we’ve seen is those two sort of just come together consistently since that time. And there’s lots of puts and takes with that. So if PPE comes down and we get a little bit better non-pandemic product, it helps GP. Probably, doesn’t have any impact on SG&A, frankly. We think we can control SG&A in any environment. And you know, one of the good things about the pandemic — and there haven’t been many — is it really forces a business to focus. And I think its we’ve really been focused on what matters. And I think that’s something that we definitely need to take forward is how do we continue to focus on the few things that really matter, which helps drive results, but also helps you manage your SG&A. So we think we’re going to be able do that going forward. I can’t give you a crystal ball answer as to what’s going to happen with PPE, because it just all depends on the timing of the virus and people’s behavior. And we’ve never seen anything like this before.

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

Right. But do you have any sense, DG, of what maybe the SG&A, I’m sorry, Tom, what sort of SG&A headwinds you’re facing kind of on a quantifyiable basis? Because you do have the 1% people that are furlough presumably have to bleed back a little bit of travel and some merit increases and stuff like that. Is it too early to tell at this point? Or how are you thinking about it?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

No. We’ll talk about that certainly at year end as we talk about forward looking. We took we had merit increases this year. So that’s not — yet, clearly we have costs that will come back into the business. Travel will be modest, we think for the next six months, given what we’re seeing with the virus, at some point that can come back. You know, but I think the headline for me would be we’ve seen nice growth. GP’s been depressed given the pandemic sales has been so elevated. SG&A has been down, I think overtime as that moderates you get better GP and a little bit of cost back added into the business. And there’s a dynamic there that we can talk about later.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, the only…

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

Understand that…

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

I’m sorry. The only thing that I would reinforce is, you know, as DG said, we’re always going to be about SG&A efficiency and control. And we’ll handle that. The upside that I see, which DG mentioned, is we’re going to see the gross margin pop from as the pandemic goes down. And also I think on the sales front as the broader economy opens up, we’re going to be well-positioned to write that way as well. And I would have to imagine, obviously it’s speculation that there’s going to be a lot of PP&E product that’s going to come into those businesses opening up, as well. So, you know, I see it more as a tailwind than any sort of a headwind.

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

DG, just lastly. Implicit in your answer on MonotaRO and monetizing MonotaRO, you indicated that Zoro it’s still pretty important to the Zoro business, it’s intertwined and so forth. At what point can Zoro do you think stand on its own or you might be strategically be in a position to say, hey, we don’t need to own half of MonotaRO, the stock has done fantastic, let’s take our position down to 20%, 30% something like that or even to zero?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I’d say a couple things to that. One is, it’s probably timing. You probably need three more years — given what we’re projecting to get Zoro to where we’d like to get it. So it’s really got the — the connected tissue to be a really strong performer for a long time. And so that’s what we’re shooting for. At that point, you know, obviously we could do things. There’s all kinds of tax implications of that, John and so we need to think through all that at that point. For now, you know, for the next three years we’re thinking of it as — we need to get Zoro business performing well. We’re really excited about the MonotaRO path and we think that’s the right focus for us.

John Inch — Gordon Haskett — Analyst

Understood. Thanks very much.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question is coming from David Manthey from Baird. Your line is now live.

David Manthey — Baird — Analyst

Thank you. Good morning, everyone. Tom, I’ll have to go back and review your commentary, but when you are talking about gross margin and you said above 200, I’m confused. Was that a fourth quarter statement? Or were you walking into 2021?

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Fourth quarter, Dave. You know, the way I’m looking at it is just simple math. If you look at Q3, a 160 [Indecipherable] gross margin with a 60 bps of onetime freight. So if you just take the 60 bps up that gets you to 2020. Now we assume the pandemic is going to get better as is cost inflation. You know, so bring that down to 200 or a little bit below. But then going back to the freight surcharge as we see during the holiday season that will get us back above 200, which is the framework that we talked about in the prepared remarks for Q4. Now, having said that, I mean, it’s very fluid. It’s hard to predict, but we’re just trying to give you guys some framework for your model.

David Manthey — Baird — Analyst

Okay. Yeah. That’s very helpful. And so I’ll ask the question, gross margin is obviously extremely hard to model these days. And if we’re just thinking big picture moving parts from, where we’ll wind up in 2020 which looks like, I don’t know, 30 below 36 is, if you just were thinking big picture, what are the main moving parts as we go from 2020 to 2021 that could move that up or down?

Also Read:  Biocept Inc (BIOC) Q3 2020 Earnings Call Transcript

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah. We’ll have a lot more to say about that going forward. I think, I think though, just to give you a couple of things to think about, one would be, how long is the pandemic going to last? Because obviously the longer the pandemic lasts, the more we’re going to be depressed with pandemic related mix and the type of customers we’re selling to. So that’s number one. Number two, we should see a natural tailwind in terms of world. We will have fully laughed the tariff related cost inflation, as well as we’ll probably see less spikes in terms of cost inflation related to the pandemic product. So those are the two big ones to think about and both of them should be tailwinds for 2021. But again, it’s premature to talk in detail. We’ll have plenty of time for that later.

David Manthey — Baird — Analyst

Got it. That’s great color. And then second on — keep stock and these embedded solutions, you talk about making up 60% of revenues just to put that in context, what percentage of customers would that represent? And then, recognizing that those customers obviously buy from via several mechanisms that you provide, could you talk about what percentage of sales are directly via the embedded solutions today?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, so let me try to take that. So most of our largest complex customers will have embedded solutions and typically they’ll have, both a KeepStock inventory management solution and EDIE Pro sort of connected digital solution as well. And so, you know, EDIE Pro and KeepStock would make up over 30% of our direct revenue. I believe you don’t quote me on it something like that. I don’t have that in the numbers right in front of me something like that. In terms of number of customers, obviously our midsize customers have fewer of those solutions. They’re more into buying on granger.com and by the way that can be pseudo, embedded, a loaded called embedded because they can have their own, they’ll have their own pricing. They may have their own workflow on Granger com, but typically they wouldn’t have inventory management. And so from a customer count, the number of customers will be much fewer in that 60% than those in there, but the largest complex customers will all have an embedded solution in general.

David Manthey — Baird — Analyst

Okay. That’s great. Thanks DG.

Operator

Thanks. Our next question today is coming from Michael McGinn from Wells Fargo. Your line is now live.

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Thanks. If I could just move to the low touch segment, can you talk about the sell through rate a per site visit or any other tangible improvement for you recommendations, substitute or frequently and packaged products and skew count and what that’s, what’s been the most impactful so far on what will be going forward?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Are you, are you talking about the endless assortment business? There’s aura business?

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Yeah.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, I mean, I’d say there’s three things that have been that have been really impactful, One is SKU count. So we look at the productivity of every SKU add and we look over kind of the last six, seven years as we’ve added SKUs. We’re now — we’ve now hit the 5 millionth point. As we’ve made in the last six months are as productive and it looks like maybe even more productive than those that we’ve made in the past. So that bodes pretty well for future growth. So that’s probably the most important piece of the growth. The other one is customer analytics and marketing. So getting customers — customer acquisition, the funnel’s pretty big. But then getting customers to repeat is really the key. And we’re doing all kinds of things there with analytics and marketing to get that second, third, fourth order and are starting to get real traction there. So those are far and away the two most important things with the endless assortment business that we track. And we’re seeing progress on both of those.

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

And how does it correlate to sales per site visit? And what’s kind of been the trend there?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Sales per site visits. You mean customers coming onto the website and what’s the revenue per site visit?

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Yeah. What — I guess, what industry metrics are you benchmarking to within that endless assortment model? And what’s been the improvement with this level of investment?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, we look at things in other business, we look at the return on ad spend. That is interesting, but not sufficient. The most important thing is looking at customer value. And so, looking at customer acquisition and the customer lifetime value. And so, we look at new customer acquisition rates, repeat rates, and we link all that to a customer value model to understand the MPV of each customer add. So that’s what we track the whole time.

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Got it. All right. On my second question, capex. Is there a normalized level of capex that you would be targeting in the out years as you transition more lesser on branches more to endless assortment? It looks like you’re trending pretty well this year. Just wondering, if there’s. If you under spend this year and there’s a catch up into next year or beyond.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I don’t…

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Go ahead, Tom.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah. I don’t think there’s going to be any big catch-up. I mean, if you — even if you look at, we spend roughly $60 million in the quarter, which was similar to last year. When the pandemic first hit, we tightened our belts a little bit and deferred some things. But given the confidence that we’ve had and the cash generation, we’re back to normal spend levels. So I don’t see any big wave coming in future years that would be anything out of the ordinary.

Michael McGinn — Wells Fargo — Analyst

Got it. Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Hamzah Mazari from Jefferies. Your line is now live.

Hamzah Mazari — Jefferies — Analyst

Hey, good morning. My question was, just in the other segment, if you take out the endless assortment business, are those other businesses losing money today? Or are they profitable? And then, is the endless assortment business now over 10% of revenue where you have to sort of re-segment that? Or is that not the right way to look at that?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So, on your second question, we are evaluating the need to think about any segmentation and we’ll talk about that in our position on that at the end of the year, or with the next year. So we’ve — we are evaluating that and we work with our auditors to make sure we understand requirements. So that’s still to come. So there’s different types of businesses that are in other when you take out endless assortment, but there’s not a lot of them. So there’s Mexico, that’s profitable. There’s Puerto Rico, that’s profitable, and there’s Cromwell is unprofitable now. But having a pretty good year in terms of customer, customer service and experience, and they’re using less money to shoot in the last. So in total, I believe those would be slightly unprofitable. But two of them are profitable and one is not. And we are working on that.

Hamzah Mazari — Jefferies — Analyst

Got it. I know we’re at the hour. So I’ll just leave it there. Appreciate it.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

All right. Thanks, Hamzah.

Hamzah Mazari — Jefferies — Analyst

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Next question is coming from Justin Bergner from GE Research. Your line is now live.

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Good morning. Good morning, DG. Good morning, Tom. Thanks for fitting me in.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Good morning.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Good morning, Justin.

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Good morning. Quick clarification question then more open ended question. The medium sized customer growth going from negative 6% to 6%. How much of that related to related to those businesses sort of being closed in the second quarter or being unable to get pandemic related product and then sort of catching up in the third quarter?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

So two things, there are two things going on. One is, some of those businesses were more impacted and may have been closed. I think the bigger issue was, in the heat of the pandemic in April, May in particular, given the way product supply happened for pandemic products and the customers we needed to funnel that product to. We didn’t have product available for those customers. And in the summer, we relax that constraint as pandemic products became more available. And we were able to open that up to that customer base. And so we’ve seen very strong growth since then happened. And I think that’s probably the bigger issue is, just being able to release the product for midsize customers. And we see nice growth as we forward.

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Great. And then, the open ended question, looking at it — from a sort of customer grouping point of view, Grainger, showed nice acceleration in the government and the retail channels. Maybe you could just sort of talk about anything unusual or potentially, recurring that is going to sustain that trend. And maybe in the context of just general outgrowth levers that maybe, materializing the new, as you look towards the end of this year and into 2021.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, I think it’s important to understand what retail is. Retail is mostly distribution centers that go direct to customer. We don’t do a lot of sort of walk in retail business, we’re more sort of the distribution centers that obviously have more safety needs and other needs. So that is obviously being growing as an industry, as the pandemic has happened. And so we’ve been we’ve been there supporting our customers through that. So that is a trend that we believe will continue, as we move forward. What was the other, I’m sorry, what was the other segment you mentioned?

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Government accelerating, which would sort of surprising…

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah.

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Be in light of pandemic sales being decelerating?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, yes, the government — government sales have been have been strong and a lot of that has been pandemic, as government’s trying to find products to support their communities during this time. And so that’s, a lot of state government business. Military has been okay as well, for federal but certainly state governments have been very, very busy, as each of them has tried to fight the pandemic. And we’ve been there trying to help as much as possible.

Justin Bergner — GE Research — Analyst

Great. Thank you.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Thank you.

Operator

Thank you. Our next question today is coming from Patrick Baumann from JPMorgan. Your line is now live.

Patrick Baumann — JPMorgan — Analyst

Hi DG and Hi Tom. I have a several couple quick ones here, the next year I was just wondering if there’s a way for you to quantify the amount of revenue from pandemic that could be headwind to next year, it sounds like you still expect pretty good share gains, you said 300 basis to 400 basis points, but I just wanted to check to see if there’s any major issues on that front in terms of pandemic, relative to next year?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Well, I think we’re like — we’re definitely going to talk about that in January with our results. Like I said before, right now and as we head into the winter, given what we’re seeing with case counts, we expect pandemic sales to be elevated through the fall and into the winter that would be our expectation. We will reevaluate as we go forward to really understand what the puts and takes are. But if pandemic sales go down, we think non-pandemic sales will go up because that would mean the pandemic isn’t much of a problem. And again, that’s helps our gross profit when that happens, and probably of our profitability rates. So, we don’t really know. I think it’s impossible to tell what’s going to happen with pandemic products. At some point, it will be a headwind, but other things and won’t be a headwind and that’s our expectation.

Patrick Baumann — JPMorgan — Analyst

Yes, makes sense. And then less real quick on [Indecipherable]. The SKUs year-to-date is that all third-party related and since you’re skewing mix more in that direction, I just want to check and see if there are any big differences in how you report the revenue or the margin, or the type of margin you get when you shift to third-party versus Grainger on inventory?

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

Yeah, so a lot of any product ads are third-party, some are through the Grainger — Granger supply chain. Third-party items tend to be lower SG&A and slightly lower margin — gross margin. But most of the time we’re working with high quality companies that have very good fulfillment capabilities. And so that’s, that’s one of our important sorts as we as we develop partners that that actually add to our assortment. And so it’s really no different than how we report it, but it is going to be a bigger factor for us going forward. We’re going to continue to add third-party shippers and that that’s a big part of what we’re doing.

Thomas B. Okray — Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer

Yeah, the only thing I would add, Patrick is the accounting difference is whether you’re an agent or not when you’re doing third-party, but that’s a minor nuance. So, thanks for the question.

Operator

Thank you. We reached the end of our question-and-answer session. I’d like to turn the floor back over to management for any further closing comments.

DG Macpherson — Chairman and Chief Executive Officer

All right, so this is D.G. So thanks, everyone, for joining us, really appreciate it. We feel good about our results in the quarter. We feel really good about our forward prospects. Obviously, there’s a ton of uncertainty in terms of how the how the market is going to evolve and probably more than anybody we’d like for the pandemic to be behind us, but we know it’s not. And so we’re going to make sure we continue to support our customers through this. That’s the first and the most important thing we’re going to do and we’re going to make sure we take care of our team members. And we’re going to make sure we do things that are proven both for the current performance of the business but for long-term. And we feel like we’re taking the right actions in a really good position to succeed both during the pandemic and beyond. So thanks for joining us today and hope you all stay safe.

Operator

[Operator Closing Remarks]

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