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Edited Transcript of FAST earnings conference call or presentation 14-Jul-20 2:00pm GMT

Q2 2020 Fastenal Co Earnings Call

WINONA Aug 22, 2020 (Thomson StreetEvents) -- Edited Transcript of Fastenal Co earnings conference call or presentation Tuesday, July 14, 2020 at 2:00:00pm GMT

TEXT version of Transcript

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Corporate Participants

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* Daniel L. Florness

Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director

* Ellen Stolts

Fastenal Company - Financial Reporting & Regulatory Compliance Manager

* Holden Lewis

Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO

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Conference Call Participants

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* Christopher M. Dankert

Longbow Research LLC - Research Analyst

* David John Manthey

Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst

* Hamzah Mazari

Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst

* Joshua Charles Pokrzywinski

Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Equity Analyst

* Nigel Edward Coe

Wolfe Research, LLC - MD & Senior Research Analyst

* Ryan James Merkel

William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst

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Presentation

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Operator [1]

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Greetings and welcome to the Fastenal 2020 Second Quarter Earnings Results Conference Call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded.

It is now my pleasure to introduce your host, Ms. Ellen Stolts. Thank you, ma'am. You may now begin.

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Ellen Stolts, Fastenal Company - Financial Reporting & Regulatory Compliance Manager [2]

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Welcome to the Fastenal Company 2020 Second Quarter Earnings Conference Call. This call will be hosted by Dan Florness, our President and Chief Executive Officer; and Holden Lewis, our Chief Financial Officer. The call will last for up to 1 hour, and we'll start with a general overview of our quarterly results and operations with the remainder of the time open for questions and answers.

Today's conference call is a proprietary Fastenal presentation and is being recorded by Fastenal. No recording, reproduction, transmission or distribution of today's call is permitted without Fastenal's consent. This call is being audio simulcast on the Internet via the Fastenal Investor Relations homepage, investor.fastenal.com. A replay of the webcast will be available on the website until September 1, 2020, at midnight Central Time.

As a reminder, today's conference call may include statements regarding the company's future plans and prospects. These statements are based on our current expectations and we undertake no duty to update them. It is important to note that the company's actual results may differ materially from those anticipated. Factors that could cause actual results to differ from anticipated results are contained in the company's latest earnings release and periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. We encourage you to review those factors carefully.

I would now like to turn the call over to Mr. Dan Florness.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [3]

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Thanks, Ellen, and good morning, everybody, and thank you for taking time this morning to listen in on the Fastenal earnings call.

Before I start, I'd like to mention 2 milestones in Fastenal this week, and I want to do it at the start rather than end in case I would be negligent and miss it. Dave Donahue today celebrates 40 years with Fastenal. Dave, I want to say thank you and congratulations. Not far behind Dave is Lee Hein, who will celebrate 35 years with Fastenal tomorrow. Rodney, if you're listening, I would mention you as well, but you're only at 20 years. And so in 10 years, I'll mention you on the call.

Surround yourself with great people, people better than yourself. Be willing to learn, to change and be comfortable with trusting others, and you will find success. And I'm pleased and I'm really proud of the Fastenal team for what we accomplished this quarter.

First off, the team was successful in sourcing hard-to-find safety products and bringing this product to our existing customers, but of equal importance -- maybe greater importance to new customers. Customers we don't traditionally do much business with. And I'm thinking of hospitals and first responders when I talk about that group.

The team was also successful in lowering our cost structure. It's really a combination of our model simply working the way it works. One item that assisted us this quarter is we've enjoyed great growth over the years. We are a promote-from-within organization. That means you're finding new talent every day in the organization. And the best way to do that, at least the best way that we found, is you have constant relationships with 4-year state colleges, 2-year technical schools. And you find folks every day to come work for us part-time. And so we have a fair number of full-time students that work for us part-time.

Well, as you can appreciate in the spring of 2020, with all the schools closing, we lost some employees. We fully expect, and we are maintaining contact with that group because we want them back when they're back in school. But in the short term, that helped us a little bit on managing the P&L, and you see that shine through on our FTE numbers. Again, that's the model working as it should work in an environment like this.

And the final piece, and that is, if you truly believe in a decentralized decision-making structure, you can move faster than anybody else in the marketplace. And I think that was demonstrated this quarter in both our ability to move quickly on rating and expenses, but also to move quickly on finding source of supply of critically needed safety products. And if there's anything that you take away from this quarter or when we think back to this quarter in the years of Fastenal, trusting others is probably the most important lesson, and it's probably one of the greatest legacies that Bob Kierlin has given to this organization.

I'm going to be redundant here for a second. I'm flipping to the second bullet in the flip-book. And our 5 priorities to the quarter was trust and fairness. Trust each other, be fair with each other, support each other. And if somebody needs to be home with a child today or a parent or something else, be flexible with that person's schedule. If somebody has a person in their household that has -- is particularly susceptible to the negative aspects of COVID-19, be mindful of that and conduct yourself accordingly in our brands, in our support area, wherever we are within the organization. And it's -- and maintain a safe environment for our people. That includes our people's family and for customers and their families.

Customers allow us to come into their business every day to fill vending machines, to stock product on a production floor or in a bin stock. We have an obligation to them as well to maintain a safe environment. Support the people directly involved in the pandemic. They're the heroes here. Be there to support them, make sure you're reaching out to them to see what they need and be creative in finding solutions for them.

Sustain a supply chain of critical products for our regular customers as well. They are the fabric of our society. And if you think about the infrastructure of this nation or the planet or you think about the things that you need in your day-to-day life, we supply the folks that make that product for you, and they need a safe and resilient source of supply.

The other suggestion I gave to the folks, and this is probably a bad talking, was maybe shut off the TV and get off social media. There's more garbage there than value, unfortunately. Talk to each other, talk to your customer, solve problems. That's the task of the day.

Going down on Page 3. The effects of this PPE surge and Holden will touch on it in more detail, but the effects of this surge is -- notably shows up in our lower gross margin. Safety products is not the higher gross margin product. And our task in the quarter was getting product to market quickly. Sometimes that meant flying product that should be on a ship. Sometimes that meant using third-party transportation to move it in a different fashion. It's not an inexpensive proposition, but it brought the product to market quickly, and that was more important in this environment. And you see that shows in our gross margin. I believe that will recover as we move into the third quarter.

The fastener sales, daily sales, the hub picks and the vending dispenses, and more of that vending dispenses in a second, point to a bottoming of the environment we operate in, in April and improved trends in both May and June. I don't think there's anything new there for the folks to be looking at our monthly numbers, but just started to share that.

The -- we added 2 charts to this quarter's discussion. And with 100,000 vending devices deployed across 25 countries, I think we probably have a good view into what's happening real-time with this. So the first is looking at product dispenses. And because I don't want to be in a situation where the analyst community is asking for numbers from now into infinity, we indexed everything back October to 100. And -- but it's really about looking at a machine out there that's -- or a group of machines that's dispensing 100 items per day and what are the trends of that population. And as you go through -- and the reason we chose October is to cut off, it was well before the start of COVID-19. So the gold line you see is a combination of the last 4 years of history.

And you can see some points that move around. So you see the Thanksgiving drop-off. You see a little surge before Christmas, and that's probably related to a lot of -- we have a bunch of customers in the e-commerce world, and there's probably a bunch of activity that spikes up there. You see a drop-off around Christmas and New Year. January and February kind of tread water. And you see based on history that if we start at 100, we'll have 103 dispenses come early March. This year, we were at 105. A couple of weeks later, you see the noise that's around Easter. But you also see the direct impact of COVID-19. You see a dramatic shift as that blue line drops and bottoms out in mid-April at 76 relative to the 100 dispenses we were doing back in October.

As we move into June, you see that 109 is about the number we'd expect before the dip that occurs around July 4. This year, we're at 93. So about a -- about a 600 basis point delta. And you'd see, by fall, we would expect to be at about 113. If you have maybe some nominal inflation in there, that would tell me our vending business is growing about 14% a year.

Flipping to the next page, now we're looking at it, not from a how much is dispensing, but how many unique users are accessing machine. Again, using that logic of 100 unique users last October, you can see a little fluttering around the Thanksgiving. You see obviously the drop-off around Christmas. History would say we should be at about 104 people accessing instead of 100 come early March. That's primarily a result of we're adding new devices every month. And so you get the growth because of that. This year, we are actually at 106, 107. And then again, you see the little fluttering around Easter, but you see the dramatic drop-off as -- because of COVID-19. And we bottomed out at about 85. The marketplace has since recovered, we're at about 101. It's treading water, as you can see through much of June. And -- but history says, we should be at about 109, so about a 800 basis point delta. And then come fall, we peak out at about 119. We'd start a new cycle again as we go into the new year. This is more, in my mind, about people and employment.

Reason I've shared this number internally. I think it's good for us to understand where we are in the marketplace, and you can see the very conservative stance we're taking in managing the expenses in the business, and we intend to continue that as we go into Q3 because it's still a weak, very weak environment. Holden will touch on that in a little more detail. Fortunately, for us, we were able to find additional business in the second quarter and make some lemonade out of lemons.

Switching to Page 6 in the flip-book. Our vending and Onsite signings bottomed in April. I don't think there's any surprise by that. They did improve in both May and June. Vending and Onsite is critical for us. That's 2 of our principal growth drivers. And they really allow us to build -- they don't maybe have the same type of impact in the last 90 days or even the next 30 or 60 days, the vending does. But the Onsite is about building that momentum for growth as we go into the tail end of this year and into 2021. And so we're very, very attuned to getting signings back because we need that for market share gains as we go into the future.

We signed 40 Onsites in the quarter. Our goal coming in -- internally, our discussion is all about how close can we get to 100 per quarter. I'm holding the shared numbers in the past. We've since pulled those numbers for the year. But I'm pleased to say that of the 40 we signed in the quarter, 20 of those were in June. So at least we're exiting the quarter with some positive momentum, but it's still at a lower level.

The -- if you look at vending, 100 is the same mantra, but there, it's not per quarter, it's how closer we get to 100 signings per day. Last 2 years, we've been in the 80s, we moved into the 90s, and then over time, moved into the 100s -- or moved north of 100. That dropped off in March as well. April was pretty low. We gained some traction in June, we signed 69 per day. So we're almost back to 70. It's still at a lower level than last few years, but it's telling me that we can engage with customers in this kind of environment. You just had to be a little more creative with how you communicate and how you tell the story.

Finally, e-commerce. Sales grew about 13.5% in the second quarter. They were climbing as we went into May and June. One thing that hurt our e-commerce numbers during the quarter is we put in place a very strict allocation process for our COVID-19 products, think mask, think face shields, think thermometers, sanitation products, et cetera. So that we essentially shut that product off from buying electronically, and you had to call the branch or call your contact to source that because that was our best means to manage our supply chain of that product. So we had a stable supply for everybody and could hold back the earns to hoard.

With that, I will turn it over to Holden.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [4]

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Right. Thanks, Dan. I'll start on Slide 7. Second quarter 2020 sales were up 10.3%. It was a quarter that was marked by 2 really distinct trends, both evolving from the social and business efforts to manage the COVID-19 pandemic. The first trend was the weakening of the economy due to stay-at-home measures and steps taken by companies to protect their workforce. This caused customers to operate at greatly reduced utilization and even shut down through parts of the quarter, something which particularly impacted our Onsites.

Conditions did improve as the quarter progressed. A pattern exemplified by our fastener daily sales, which declined 22.5% in April, 15.3% in May and 11.4% in June. That same pattern was evident in the vending data that Dan discussed as well as our distribution center picks. We believe demand in our traditional business is still 10% to 15% below first quarter levels. And we have seen some flattening in those trends in the last few weeks.

The second trend was a surge in demand for certain products that were critical to governments, health care providers and certain businesses in handling the pandemic. We estimate the surge sales of PPE, sanitizer and other products contributed $350 million to $360 million or roughly 25 percentage points of growth in the quarter. These volumes, which drove 116% growth in our safety products and 260% growth in our government, health care business, more than offset weak underlying conditions in our traditional business. We've mostly sold through our pipeline of surge orders at this time.

The near-term outlook remains difficult to project. The reopening of industry is occurring in fits and starts as customers reconstitute their workforces and their supply chains. And the trends in our internal metrics and a June PMI of 52.6 are encouraging. Further, while we do not expect a second quarter style surge in PPE and sanitizer products because the marketplace today is much better supplied, the recent increase in COVID-19 infections and expanded customer list in key industries should sustain some degree of safety growth. On the other hand, it is less clear how that increase in infections will affect the pace of reopening. I would characterize the tone in the field to be one of cautious optimism for the third quarter of 2020.

Now to Slide 8. Gross margin was 44.5% in the second quarter of 2020, down 240 basis points versus the second quarter of 2019. Roughly 1/3 of this decline related to mix, which was better than we would have expected at the start of the quarter. While the negative effects of product mix rose sharply, this was partly offset by customer mix as closures in April and May caused our Onsites with lower gross margins to underperform total company sales. We expect these dynamics to reverse as conditions normalize.

Roughly 1/3 of the decline in our gross margin related to lower safety margins, a byproduct of sourcing product quickly from nontraditional channels. This should be fully recovered, though it may take a couple of quarters as an oversupply of certain PPE, particularly masks, is impacting margins for those products. The remaining decline in gross margin is from cyclical and organizational factors such as rebates and deleveraging of certain fixed costs, with the exception of specific lines with unique supply/demand profiles such as 3-ply masks, the pricing environment is stable. This decline in gross margin was more than offset by leveraging of SG&A, which at 23.6% of sales was 320 basis points better than in the second quarter of 2019.

Most of our branch network did not have meaningful surge orders and reacted to weakness in their traditional business by reducing FTE by 9.4%, mostly through a reduction in part-time labor of 15% and hours worked of 23%. This resulted in 240 basis points of leverage over labor in the second quarter. The remaining leverage was from tight control of costs related to travel, training, occupancy, et cetera, and produced an operating margin of 20.9%, up 80 basis points and an incremental margin of 29%.

Given still challenging macro conditions, we will continue to tightly control discretionary operating costs in the third quarter of 2020. Putting it all together, we reported second quarter 2020 EPS of $0.42, up 16.7% from $0.36 in the second quarter of 2019.

Turning to Slide 7. Operating cash flow of $251 million -- sorry, Slide 9. I'm sorry, turning to Slide 9. Those vending charts threw me. On Slide 9. Operating cash flow of $251 million in the second quarter of 2020 was 105% of net income. The increase in operating cash flow versus the second quarter of 2019 was due to $111 million in deferred taxes as part of the CARES Act and higher earnings. $104 million of the deferred taxes will be paid in the third quarter of 2020.

Accounts receivable was up 7.5%, including approximately $75 million related to COVID that we believe will be mostly paid in the third quarter of 2020. Inventories were up 4.1%, including approximately $50 million related to COVID that we will work down over the course of the year.

We deployed our balance sheet aggressively through the second quarter of 2020 to retain customer inventories, while they were shuttered or operated at severely depressed levels as well as to secure and move critical products quickly.

Net capital spending in the second quarter of 2020 was $38 million, down from $67 million in the second quarter of 2019, which was expected given reduced needs for new hub capacity after the investments made in 2019, but also reflects lower vending and truck spending.

Our capital spending range for 2020 remains $155 million to $180 million. We returned cash to shareholders in the quarter in the form of $143 million in dividends.

From a liquidity standpoint, we finished the second quarter of 2020 with debt at 12.7% of total capital, up versus the fourth quarter of 2019 due to the March 2020 Apex asset acquisition, but below the year ago level of 16.6%. We did convert our variable rate revolver debt to fixed debt under our master note agreement during the period. And as a result, we have about $660 million available on our existing credit lines. This leaves us with ample capacity to pay deferred taxes and our dividend as well as to support the reopening of our customers or any COVID-related needs that may yet emerge. This is all for our formal presentation.

So with that, operator, we'll take questions.

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Questions and Answers

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Operator [1]

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(Operator Instructions) Our first question is coming from Josh Pokrzywinski of Morgan Stanley.

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Joshua Charles Pokrzywinski, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Equity Analyst [2]

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Holden, just first question, from a comment you made, flattening in the past few weeks. I guess, depending on whether I look at the charts that are kind of indexed to past points in time or just think about year-over-year, can you just help me impart what that means? Is that business getting better in the last few weeks relative to how the quarter ended? Or are you trying to say that you've seen some tapering? It wasn't entirely clear. I apologize for maybe being a little slow on the uptake there.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [3]

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So, I think if you look at Page 4, which is the product dispenses through vending, what you'll see is a bottom in April that really recovered nicely through May. But over the last, call it, 3, 4 weeks, you've really seen a flattening in the number of vending dispenses that we've seen relative to prior weeks. And I think that's really what I'm referring to. We've seen something similar in hub picks. And so I think what that kind of tells us is, in the last few weeks, you have that steady increase that we've been seeing week upon week there for 1.5 months, 2 months, really has kind of flattened out in the last couple of weeks. Now to what degree is that because of the timing of the 4th of July holiday? To what degree is that a function of an increased infections and maybe people reacting in certain parts of the country to that? We don't know that at this point. But I think that what I was referring to in the dialogue was really what you see on that chart on Slide 4.

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Joshua Charles Pokrzywinski, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Equity Analyst [4]

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Got it. I guess if I had to look at like a Fastenal only version of that. So stripping out some of the safety elements, do you think it would look the same? Or would it have more of a steady increase, kind of more representative of the day-to-day business as it were?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [5]

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I think it would probably look the same. Worth noting that we don't vend fasteners. So it certainly wouldn't reflect that, but...

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Joshua Charles Pokrzywinski, Morgan Stanley, Research Division - Equity Analyst [6]

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More safety...

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [7]

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Yes. But if I think about the trend in hub picks, which is much broader than just vending, right, and they show a very similar pattern, I think that you're -- I think that's what you're seeing. But like I said, the cause of it is difficult to know. This chart really -- this flattening really occurs around a significant holiday. And timing of the week can matter and that sort of thing. So it's really difficult to know what that means in terms of the remainder of July and the remainder of the third quarter, but it's there to sort of look at, and we'll see how that plays out in coming weeks.

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Operator [8]

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Our next question is coming from Dave Manthey of Baird.

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David John Manthey, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [9]

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First off, I think that 2021 was supposed to be the year that Onsites would be gaining ground on operating margin as you're adding fewer to the bucket and as the existing Onsites were improving profitability, should we -- as we think about going through the downturn here, should we think about just moving that to the right year? Do you still anticipate maybe 2022, we would start to see Onsites as a group improving in terms of profitability actually helping the overall margin?

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [10]

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I'll throw out a thought on it, and I'll let Holden correct me where I go, right? You are correct with your comment about 2021, and our thinking is the same. I think that there's 2 -- there's a couple of competing things going on. One will be if our -- if our existing Onsites are at a depressed level and that depressed level stays in place, that wreaks havoc to what you're talking about. If that -- if we work our way out of that depressed level on the existing Onsites, all of a sudden, their operating margin improves because their volumes improve and we're absorbing our cost. If you think of the impact of new Onsites coming in, actually, that would help us in 2021. Unfortunately, it would help us because we'd have fewer drain from the new Onsites. We won't have the revenue growth. But in the first year, the Onsites actually hurt operating margin. And so your comment about mix change is really a function of as we get now 4 years into this accelerated Onsite signings, and we -- and it becomes a more balanced mix, a lower number in 1 year would actually help that in the short term. I don't want that help. We want the signings. But mathematically -- so I don't know that it pushes it out and Holden might have a better insight because he's closer to the numbers than I am.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [11]

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Yes. I think it's for better or for worse, what has occurred, nothing has changed in terms of our overall view of how this plays out. But what has occurred is we've injected a couple more variables in that we didn't necessarily anticipate injecting in. I think Dan really spoke about those. Of the variables that was causing us to think about the timing originally, the one that comes to mind for me is one reason the margin would get better is because the average size per Onsite gets better. And we were going to see those lines begin to cross in 2020, and therefore, lead to some better improvement in 2021. I still think that's the key metric, Dave. And so depending on how all these variables play out over the next 6 to 12 months, I think the key metric is the average size per Onsite bottoming out and beginning to rise in a sustainable fashion. And is it possible that, that point can get pushed out a bit by all these moving pieces that are playing out? Yes, I think that, that's possible. I think those are cyclical factors as opposed to secular ones, right? I think the overall dynamic is still very much in place, very much in force. And unfortunately, we've had some other variables that get injected into it. But I still believe that once the average size per Onsite begins to move up, that's where you're going to start to see the leverage and incremental margins in that business move up. If that slides a couple of quarters because of some of the things that's happening, it's possible, but I don't think it's changed in any way the overall secular picture around Onsites and improving profitability and returns.

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David John Manthey, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [12]

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Got it. Okay. And it's been a while I had asked this question and mix may have changed over time. But when you look at Fastenal business today, particularly in the manufacturing verticals compared to industrial production, what verticals do you see the company right now as being slightly overweight versus slightly underweight? Can you just give us an idea of maybe the top 1 or 2 there?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [13]

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Not sure how to answer that question. The -- we're still a heavy manufacturing company, of course. And heavy machinery is a big portion of that. Now, I think that's a natural byproduct of the kind of products that we serve, our history, the markets that we typically address, et cetera. So I'm not sure that we're overweight. But I will tell you, we'd like to move our construction mix up. We'd like to move our government and education mix up. And I think that, that's occurred over time. We'd like to see it happen faster. And so if I think going forward, will manufacturing be slightly smaller in the mix than it is today relative to some of these governments and health care and educational opportunities in construction? Probably. That's just us moving into additional markets and additional opportunities and making progress in those. So that's probably how I would characterize it, Dan. I don't know if you have a different perspective.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [14]

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If you think about our manufacturing business, about half of our manufacturing business to Holden's point is heavy manufacturing. And a big chunk of that, probably 2/3 of that would be heavy equipment manufacturing within that heavy manufacturing subcategory. And you picked up, I saw -- I read the piece you put out earlier this morning, Dave, you picked up on the fact that manufacturing did weaken a little bit in June. And that's where the weakening was. It had gained some strength in May. It was down 24% in April. It was down 10% and then down 14% now in June. I don't know how much comps from last year played into that because I just don't have visibility to that in front of me. But that's a piece. About 40% of our manufacturing business is broadly in what Holden describes on my chi-chi here is media manufacturing, I'll let him define what that means. That was just marginally negative in June. The remaining, which is about 10% of our manufacturing, which probably has a lot of food in it as well, that's actually growing double digits in April, May and June, where it was only growing 9% back in March.

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David John Manthey, Robert W. Baird & Co. Incorporated, Research Division - Senior Research Analyst [15]

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Okay. Great. But you're operating in Oklahoma...

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [16]

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Yes, if you're operating in Oklahoma, Texas or Louisiana, that's a pretty tough manufacturing environment right now because there's -- we do fair amount of business in oil and gas.

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Operator [17]

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Our next question is coming from Hamzah Mazari of Jefferies.

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Hamzah Mazari, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [18]

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My question was just on the -- on your captive trucking network. I think you mentioned using third-party transport. Any thoughts as to how you're thinking about freight? And just longer term, what kind of competitive advantage you're taking network has? Historically, you've talked about optimizing that. Just curious where that stands.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [19]

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So I don't think our thought process on freight using our own captive network has changed at all during this. What we did do is we pulled -- our lowest day of the week for shipments is Tuesday. So our shipment goes out -- our truck routes go out Monday night, we effectively canceled those in April. And branches that were getting 5 trucks, now getting 4 trucks. And we really challenged out those branches to work with your customer to understand your inventory stocking. So we didn't -- not -- so we didn't cancel Tuesday trucks and then we freight in a bunch of stuff because we needed the product. We did a really nice job with that. Now the savings there is in some labor. It's in fuel, obviously. The trucks, unfortunately, all we could do on that day is park them.

And so as they go off lease, we can reduce some of those as we go through the year. We used a fair amount for third-party because our trucking network is really this agile trucking system that lives and breathes within the Fastenal supply chain. And these surge orders, we weren't selling a box or a pallet of product. We were selling truckloads or container loads. And so that's what really prompted the need to use probably more third-party than we had typically because it was just a different type of movement. Whereas our trucking network, I think of it as an LTL network. It does small parcel, it does LTL, and it's very agile and nimble. But if you want to move a truckload from point A to point B, it might be more cost effective, to move it one of our trucks and just drive it there, to move it on third-party who's got -- who has an open line.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [20]

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So the combination of underutilizing some of our fleet as well as if you look at how much product we move not on our fleet, but on third-party, it was probably 6 to 7 percentage points higher in this quarter than it has been in recent quarters. And again, that carries an incremental cost to it as well. But it's a reflection of some of the product that we did move, but those are some of the inefficiencies that get created in the network in an environment like this.

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Hamzah Mazari, Jefferies LLC, Research Division - Equity Analyst [21]

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Got it. And just a follow-up question, I'll turn it over. Just what are you looking for in terms of visibility before you start adding cost back into the system, specifically headcount? I know you mentioned you're cautiously optimistic today, but any thoughts as to what you're looking at internally there before you add costs back?

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [22]

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Every Wednesday, I get an update on those vending stats you looked at, and I'm watching those vending stats because here's a $1 billion business that touches on a daily basis. And I mean, 7 days a week in -- across 25 countries across a big piece of our customer base. I think it was on the latest employment numbers that came out, and they were talking about how they were adjusting and the methods. We learned more about the methods for doing unemployment reporting at the federal level, and I felt like, geez, don't they just get Ouija board and then they can improve the accuracy. Here, we have something that looks at our business every day, every week. It's incredibly accurate. When I see those trends move, we'll be more comfortable to take steps.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [23]

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Yes. And I think to add to that, you will see some expenses come back. I mean, we had movement, travel, food, things of that nature, among our sales and non-sales force, that was down 60%, just about 60% in the second quarter. Do I expect that to be down 60% in the third quarter? Probably not. Will it be down significantly? In all likelihood it will. If you talk to the RVPs on how they're viewing labor, at this point, they're still looking to be very tight with what they add back. And as they add, if those opportunities present themselves, they're more likely to begin by adding hours because I think there's plenty of capacity in our part-time workforce today to add hours before we have to add more heads or more bodies. So the -- we're still going to operate, I think, well below sort of the Q1 level of expenses, and I think the market justifies that. But would you expect to see some increase as the market today looks really different than what we thought it might look like 3 months ago? Sure. But we're certain it'll be fairly tight, and that's controlled by the field.

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Operator [24]

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Our next question is coming from Ryan Merkel of William Blair.

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Ryan James Merkel, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst [25]

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Maybe I'll ask a few safety questions. So I think first off, any color on why safety sales in June only tapered slightly? I think Holden, you were expecting maybe a bigger falloff. And I think one of your peers who reported mentioned that, hey, customers already bought. So they saw safety fall off pretty meaningfully in June?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [26]

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I'll say the surge business was still pretty healthy in June. And I think that really gets to it. So in both May and June, I would say the surge orders outperformed what I might have expected going into the month. And that's a positive thing. Not only for us as an organization, but for what we can do for customers and for the marketplace in general. So I think that, that's great. But yes, I would say the surge orders just simply were better than I might have expected going into the month.

Now I will caution, I think I did suggest that at the time of the May sales release that we would see some more in June, they would taper off. They didn't taper off as much as we thought, but I did indicate that I didn't think that surge orders would be meaningful as you roll into the third quarter. I still believe that. I think that we've largely sort of taken care of the pipeline of the initial surge. The question at this point is whether or not there's going to be a second pipeline filling event, right? And you are seeing a lot of COVID infections moving up. We have a lot of new customers that we absolutely expect to turn get away from being sort of a onetime supplier search product and turning them into long-term regular customers.

But at the same time, the marketplace right now is much better supplied with these products than it was 3 months ago when the surge pipeline built up. So I believe that in the third quarter, I think safety will grow up despite the market still being a little bit underwater. And I think that some of what you're seeing in the market will be helpful. But I think you're looking at growth that's more like 10% to 15%, not 116%. And that's how I'd characterize the environment today.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [27]

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The only thing I'd add to it is there's still a lot of noise going on. Every day, you see something new going on in a particular geographic area. I think we've done a nice job. Our government team particularly has done a really nice job of helping the public be aware of we are a reliable source of supply. And more stuff came out of the woodwork in June than I would have expected. And just last week, I was talking to one of our regional vice presidents, and he was talking about an onsite we designed and it was completely related to somebody that wasn't a business partner of ours before, but they were sourcing product for and they learned about what we do and how we go to market, and we signed an onsite with them.

And so I think part of what's helping us right now is word-of-mouth in the end market. We're still getting calls. Yesterday, I was sitting in the Board meeting, and we see the text from one of our -- one of our EVPs of Sales, and there's some stuff come out of the woodwork again. Now please don't read into that, Florness just said it's going to take off again in Q3, but it's -- there's still stuff that comes out of the word work. And I think part of it is the marketplace, a nontraditional marketplace for us is seeing us as a very valuable supply chain partner because one of the things that has come out of this is -- and you see news -- unfortunate news stories about it.

There's a lot of garbage in the marketplace as far as product. We were founded by a mechanical engineer. We started with fasteners. There's nothing that requires better QC than fasteners because it's holding stuff together. When we sell -- when we source something, we're in the plant. We're testing the product in a way that maybe isn't existing in all sources of supply. And so people trust us. And that's really important in this environment.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [28]

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Another way to think of the change perhaps is, if I look at where the safety mix is through the first 7 days of the business, so let's bear in mind, there's only 7 days. But safety is about 24% of revenues through the first 7 days of July. Compare that to the second quarter, it was 34% of revenues. And so you've clearly seen that July is not going to be where June was in those numbers unless something changes as it relates to the current COVID infections, and that's something that we have yet to be seen. But I think it's just as meaningful to suggest or to point out that at this time last year, safety was 17%, 18%, 19%, right?

And so that's kind of the dynamic that you're seeing. And that's why we suggest that you're not going to see surge volumes in the third quarter in July, like you've seen -- like you saw in the second quarter, but we'll see how the market evolves.

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Ryan James Merkel, William Blair & Company L.L.C., Research Division - Research Analyst [29]

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Okay. Yes, helpful color. I'm having a pretty tough time forecasting 3Q, I think like everyone else, but that's helpful. So you started to answer, Dan, my second question a little bit there. But just stepping back, high level, in a post-COVID world, does your value prop to the customer increase in your view? And then related, any change in the way that you go-to-market? Or is access to facilities not going to change that much in your view?

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [30]

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The -- I think the value prop has expanded, particularly for folks outside our historical customer base. I mean they didn't know us as well. And we've been serving the manufacturing and construction sectors for years. We're still kind of a new player in some of the other spaces. So I think our value proposition, the awareness to it has improved. I think one of the outcomes of this, I think we've proven to ourselves that we can do some things that maybe we didn't even realize we could do. Because while we have a substantial safety business, I don't want to make light of it, half of our safety business was because of our vending business.

And so we've grown great resources in that industry, in that marketplace. But I don't think we even realized how strong they were. And this gave us a chance to flex that muscle a little bit and demonstrate it. And so what it means going forward? That one, I'm really not sure of. We had to cancel our customer show in April, as you're aware. And that's a big event for us because people get a chance to get exposed a little deeper into the organization than you meet with suppliers. You learn about what we do, how we go to market. It's a very transparent event from the standpoint of gaining comfort.

Because a supplier when they really turn the business over to us, that's a huge trust thing, and they learn that this is a group of folks that I can rely on. And not having that, that's a tough one. But we have, going into the fall, a bunch of virtual events that we're developing and we'll be doing, and they're -- we really, I think, have a good plan there. We're going to figure out a way to promote vending to promote Onsites, to promote the Fastenal business model in the marketplace. And I think maybe we'll figure out a way to do it better, but time will tell.

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Operator [31]

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(Operator Instructions) Our next question is coming from Nigel Coe of Wolfe Research.

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Nigel Edward Coe, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD & Senior Research Analyst [32]

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Maybe I'll pick up from -- I think, Ryan touched on a topic that I was going to dig into as well. In the sort of the traditional retail world, we've seen a pretty marked shift between physical versus e-commerce. And it doesn't feel like you've seen that. I'm just wondering, in a post-COVID world, do you expect e-commerce to accelerate the expense of physical store sales, not necessarily onsites, just your physical stores?

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [33]

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If you think about how we've kind of presented the story, and I talked about this, over at the Annual Meeting and is we really -- when you boil down business, it's going into our end market, and we're a B2B model. When you look at that business, the bulk of the dollars are planned spend, a smaller piece of the dollars are transactional spend. And -- but we've really built with our -- started with fasteners, especially the OEM fasteners and the MRO as it relates to bin stocks. And now gotten much deeper with our vending is we're really a great supplier for planned spend. And because we have the infrastructure for planned spend, we're really good at transactional, too.

So one of the reasons our e-commerce numbers are different than our peers is most of the products our customers buy from us, they don't order. It's there when they need it. It might be in a vending machine, it might be in a bin, it might be on a production floor. We know their needs. And so it's kind of like that ad that you used to always see of the person reaching in and grabbing the orange juice and there's a hand reaching through from the vine -- or the [it’s not an] orchard, whatever you call where oranges are grown. And -- but the point is, if you're really good at supply chain partnership, you aren't ordering product, and that changes our dynamic.

Now we see on that piece of business that is transactional, be a great partner, and that's where we think things like our vending come into play. So one thing we really haven't talked about is during the last few months, we've rolled out about 400 vending machines to the front of branch locations. So when a customer calls up to order something or, better yet, orders it online, we put it in the locker because the vending is the natural social distance tool. Bin stocks is a natural social distance tool. So we think we're actually poised to be more successful at creating a reliable supply chain and yet instilling social distance because it's inherently more efficient. And so I think it serves us well and improves, I think, to Ryan's last question, the value proposition because, especially since we did the transaction with Apex back in March, we now can do things with vending that we couldn't have done 3 and 4 and 5 months ago, and now we own the technology. So we can take it anywhere that the marketplace wants us to take it.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [34]

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I would probably add, I mean, our fundamental value proposition is one of total cost of ownership savings. And as Dan alluded to, what we try to do for a customer is remove them from the process of doing something which is noncore to them, which is sourcing product. And the e-commerce path has a lot of value in the channel, but it still is going to heavily involve the customer in the process of procuring product. And as long as customers continue to see value in the case of an Onsite and our assuming the inventory and our assuming the crib duties or in vending, seeing value in the data that comes out of that, the availability on the -- at the point-of-use on the plant, that's -- those just aren't things that can be replicated in an e-commerce environment. So in our view, to see a major change like you're suggesting, would have to see a major change in what customers value, which is to say they're willing to accept more expense in their sourcing operations than they have to if they use our approach to the marketplace. And we just don't think that's going to happen.

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Nigel Edward Coe, Wolfe Research, LLC - MD & Senior Research Analyst [35]

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That's great color. And then I want to understand what you mean by the safety is much better supplied in the market, specifically within some of the nontraditional customer base. And is that because the traditional distributors into those verticals have kind of caught up and they've got inventory? Or do the customers have a lot of inventory themselves? I mean what do you actually mean by that comment?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [36]

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It's probably some combination of all of it. I think 3 months ago, when this crisis hit, remember, China was actually down and coming back up. And so you weren't fully producing product at the kind of scale that you needed to deal with the issue of COVID as it hit Europe and the U.S. And so I think 3 months ago, you had supply restrictions. I think those supply restrictions have largely cleaned up. I think 3 months ago, the supply chain was in shock, and it took a while for the supply chain to figure out where to go to get product. I think that the supply chain has figured that out. And I do suspect that there are customers out there that overpurchase product because of the uncertainty of the situation, and it's probably in the chain.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [37]

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I think the last piece is probably as important element of all of them. I mean how many people in this call went out and bought 6 months' worth of toilet paper in March? I mean it was ridiculous what you'd see going out in carts at establishments as it relates to just basic household supplies. And when you have that kind of a surge in demand, I mean, one thing that we did, and I think it's resonated well with our customer base, especially including our new customer base, is we put in place a very common sensical allocation process. And we've really have tried to share and shed the light of day of that process with our customers.

And I think that even changes the ordering pattern of the customers because all of a sudden, they get what we're doing. They understand it and now they're buying to demand. They're not buying out of panic. And that's what -- I keep harping on this point, and I'm sorry if I'm beating at the death. That's what a supply chain partner does, is shed light. So here's how the system works, and here's how and why we can support your needs and we can be reliable.

And that's probably changing part of the 2 because there's less panic buying going on today. I mean we brought -- very early on, this organization was able to bring -- bring organization to chaos. And I think today, the market has less chaos, and it's fairly well supplied with key products like 3-plys and things of that nature. And by the way, in that particular line, that's also having an impact on sort of the pricing in the marketplace as well.

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Operator [38]

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Our next question is coming from Chris Dankert of Longbow Research.

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Christopher M. Dankert, Longbow Research LLC - Research Analyst [39]

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Holden, do we have time for one more? Do you want to wrap it up?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [40]

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We're good, yes.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [41]

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I have already answered because I talked too long.

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Christopher M. Dankert, Longbow Research LLC - Research Analyst [42]

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I guess, just kind of circling back here. How many of these nontraditional customers have indicated there is the opportunity for a larger relationship? Is some of this just, hey, let's support the governments and hospitals and health care workers in this time of need. And that's going to be just a short-term sugar rush? Or can some of these relationships extend into 2021 and beyond and kind of grow from there?

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [43]

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I think our safety teams have talked about probably only 1/4 of the relationships that we created or entered into in sort of a onetime surge capacity can be forged into long-term relationships. Now when I say 1/4, look, some of those relationships are always going to be transactional, right, either because they were using us because their traditional supplier wasn't available, they go back to that relationship or what have you. But there is an expectation out of the safety teams that only 1/4 of those relationships from the second quarter could be extended into long-term relationships as opposed to short-term transactional ones. And obviously, those are going to be the ones that are the largest opportunities from our perspective, so.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [44]

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One thing I'll add to that -- sorry, I said I'll shut up, is I think awareness is part of the game for a lot of these customers, they probably weren't -- they didn't think of us as a supply chain partner in their space, in their industry. They thought of us, oh, those little guys have turned up in both. Or they're more of a manufacturing and an industrial construction supplier, they don't really sell what we source. So I think awareness is an important element here. I believe also what you run into is a lot of those marketplaces, they buy through consortiums. And if you're not necessarily a player in that space, you're not on their radar.

And I wouldn't be surprised, and this is forward-looking now. So I shouldn't have turned here to qualify everything I'm going to say. I wouldn't be surprised to see some customers say, hey, to their consortium, we want Fastenal in this group so that we can source from them and it's easier because we went through too many hurdles to buy from them in March or April, and we need to make this easier. I think you'll see some of that. And I think it has some staying power. But I think it's all about becoming aware to what we can bring to their table. Because at the end of the day, it's not about what Fastenal does. It's about the value we can bring to the customer and awareness is a key part, yes.

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Christopher M. Dankert, Longbow Research LLC - Research Analyst [45]

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Got it. Yes, I'm glad to hear that there's certainly some real tangible opportunity there. And then Holden, you touched on this, I'd like to circle back real quick, I guess, Fastenal deals in a fairly high amount of branch-specific stock in most quarters. But obviously, we're seeing a lot more kind of in response to the pandemic. Now that these supplier relationships are established, I guess, how does that impact mix going forward? Is it reasonable to think that getting these rebate relationships in place can kind of help offset some of that gross margin pressure in the back half of the year?

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [46]

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Well, I'm not sure that there's -- rebates, they are typically negotiated on a periodic basis. I'm not sure that, that's going to have any impact on the back half of the year. Starting a little bit with the sort of the -- where you're going with the question. But yes, if you could let me know exactly what you're looking for.

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Christopher M. Dankert, Longbow Research LLC - Research Analyst [47]

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I was just thinking -- no, if you're dealing with just new suppliers that you have no history with, obviously, you're going to get a tougher cost basis than if you're establishing these relationships and you start to work out better pricing. That was the thrust of my question.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [48]

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Got it. Right. Okay. On the supply side. My apologies. So we -- one of the reasons -- our safety margin in the second quarter was probably 250 to 350 basis points lower than it needs to be. And frankly, lower than it was in Q1 and last year. And that is significantly because of some of the things that you're talking about. Now going forward, we've certainly introduced ourselves to new suppliers and they to us, and we'll no doubt vet those suppliers. And if there are suppliers that are worth carrying forward, going forward, then I'm sure we'll do that. And we'll do that in a more traditional relationship. Maybe there'll be rebates in there or maybe there'll be a different agreement on pricing. As 2 parties begin to trust each other, I think that it becomes easier to optimize that relationship, and that can happen.

But worst-case scenario, again, as the marketplace normalizes, we will go back to our normal dynamics with our normal suppliers, with our normal means of transporting product about. And I would expect that we will get that 250 to 350 basis points back. Now will that happen in 3Q? Probably not. Because as I talked about, we do have some product in inventory that -- where some of the price/cost dynamics are a little bit challenging. And I think we have to work through that over the course of the year. And again, there's probably going to be some additional COVID-type business that happens based on the infection rates. And so do I think we get the 250 to 350 back in the third quarter? Probably not. But I think we'll make substantial progress. And I think we'll normalize things as the year progresses in that particular product line.

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Daniel L. Florness, Fastenal Company - President, CEO & Director [49]

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I was just going to say it's 2 minutes to the hour. Again, thank you for everybody for participating in the call today. My thanks to the Blue Team at Fastenal for what you did in the last 3, 4 months of setting your personal fears aside at times and pursuing the goal of -- we have a strong conservative balance sheet. We can make use of it in this environment to create a fast -- to create speed and resilient supply chain. And everybody needs a purpose and a reason to get up in the morning. I think we found a great purpose for the last 4 months. And thank you.

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Holden Lewis, Fastenal Company - Executive VP & CFO [50]

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Thank you.

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Operator [51]

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Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for your participation. This concludes today's event. You may disconnect your lines at this time, and have a wonderful day.