Grainger’s Lab Safety Supply Gets Gempler’s

Maintenance, repair, and operating supplies giant Grainger is getting even bigger. The Chicago-based marketer on Feb. 14 agreed to buy business-to-business horticultural and grounds maintenance supplies cataloger Gempler’s for an undisclosed amount. At press time Grainger expected the deal to close early in the second quarter and to be accretive within a year.

The $30 million Gempler’s, which is based in Belleville, WI, will become part of Grainger’s Janesville, WI-based Lab Safety Supply division, which Grainger acquired in 1992. Grainger chairman/CEO Richard Keyser describes the deal as part of an ongoing plan to make “bolt on” acquisitions to accelerate Lab Safety’s growth — or to reverse a revenue decline. The cataloger, which sells safety equipment to manufacturers, suffered a 13% decline in fourth-quarter sales, primarily due to sluggishness within the manufacturing sector.

“This acquisition helps us add contractors, agricultural sector professionals, and grounds maintenance and horticulture professionals” to our audience, says Grainger spokesperson Mike McGrew. “It allows the company to offer same value-proposition safety supplies to a broader base of customers.” In that sense, the Gempler’s acquisition is similar to Grainger’s 2001 purchase of engineering equipment cataloger Ben Meadows Co., which is also part of the company’s Lab Safety division.

Analyst Stewart Scharf, from New York-based Standard & Poor’s Equity Group, says that in addition to helping Lab Safety expand and diversify its market segment, Gempler’s will be a good fit in the long term. “Lab Safety will be able to integrate Gempler’s now, and as the markets improve, it will be in a good position,” he says. Scharf believes Lab Safety’s market segment will start picking up toward the end of the year.

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