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Fastenal Value Stock - Dividend - Research Selection


ISIN: US3119001044 , WKN: 887891

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Description of the company

Fastenal Company (together with our subsidiaries, hereinafter referred to as 'Fastenal' or the 'Company' or by terms such as we, our, or us) began as a partnership in 1967, and was incorporated under the laws of Minnesota in 1968. We opened our first store in 1967 in Winona, Minnesota, a city with a population today of approximately 27,000. We began with a marketing strategy of supplying threaded fasteners to customers in small, medium-sized, and, in subsequent years, large cities. Over time, that mandate has expanded to a broader range of industrial and construction supplies that we break into twelve product lines (described later in this document). The large majority of our transactions are business-to-business, though we also have some 'walk-in' retail business. At the end of 2016, we had 2,503 store locations in 21 countries supported by 14 distribution centers in North America (eleven in the United States, two in Canada, and one in Mexico), and we employed 19,624 people. We believe our success can be attributed to our ability to offer our customers a full line of products and services from convenient locations, as well as to the high quality of our employees.


Our stores represent the foundation of our service approach, putting us close to the customer and providing an efficient means of providing them with a broad range of products and services on a timely basis. We believe there are few companies that offer our store coverage on a national basis. We are constantly evaluating the efficacy of our store network. There are times when this leads us to open new locations. We select these new locations based on their proximity to our distribution network, population statistics, and employment data for manufacturing and non-residential construction. We stock all new stores with inventory drawn from all of our product lines, and over time, our district and store personnel may tailor the inventory offering to the needs of the local customer base. In both 2016 and 2015, we opened new stores at a rate of approximately 2%. Our store network evaluations also reveal locations that are candidates for closure, consolidation, or conversion, as was the case in 2016 and 2015. This resulted in a net decrease in store locations in each of the last two years.


We currently have several versions of selling locations. (1) A 'traditional store' services a wide variety of customers and stocks a wide selection of the products we offer. (2) An 'overseas store' focuses on manufacturing customers and our fastener product line and is the format we typically deploy outside the United States and Canada. (3) A 'strategic account store' is a unique location that sells to multiple large accounts in a market. (4) A 'strategic account site' is similar to a strategic account store, but typically operates out of an existing store rather than from a unique location. (5) An 'Onsite location' is a selling unit located in or near a customer's facility that sells product solely to that customer. Because traditional, overseas, and strategic account stores sell to multiple customers, they are included in our total store count. Neither strategic account sites nor Onsite locations are included in our total store count because strategic account sites operate from an existing store location and Onsite locations represent a customer subset of an existing store location.

We have long maintained that marketplace demographics could support a North American network of 3,500 stores. We continue to believe this, but since establishing this figure our strategy has changed. Store openings, at least in their historical sense (the 'traditional store'), are no longer our primary growth driver. At this point, the emergence of, and increased investment in, new growth drivers and business models make it unlikely that we will approach the total store potential of North America. These new growth drivers include industrial vending, Onsite locations, and end market growth investments (CSP 16, for example), as well as the investment in sales personnel (both store and non-store) to support them. These represent alternative means to address the requirements of certain customer groups. They also get us even closer to our customers than the traditional store, which has always been core to Fastenal’s strategy and an effective means of providing differentiated and 'sticky' service that is very difficult for large and small competitors to replicate. These growth drivers appear to have substantial market opportunities of their own. For instance, we believe the market could support approximately 1.7 million industrial vending machines. We have also identified over 15,000 customer locations with potential to implement the Onsite service model.  We remain committed to a large, robust store network; it remains the indispensable foundation of our business. Still, our store count peaked in 2013 and has declined in each of the three years since, and more often than not going forward, it will likely be difficult to know if our total store count will increase or decrease in any given year.  In contrast, we expect to grow our installed base of industrial vending machines and increase our Onsite locations meaningfully over time.


We plan to open additional selling locations outside of the United States in the future. The selling locations outside of the United States contributed approximately 12% of our consolidated net sales in 2016, with approximately 49% and 30% of this amount attributable to our Canadian and Mexican operations, respectively.

It has been our experience that our profitability is affected by the age of our store base. New stores tend to be less profitable due to start-up costs and the time necessary to generate a customer base. A new store generates most of its sales from direct sales calls, a slow process involving repeated contacts. As a result of this process, sales volume builds slowly and it typically requires at least ten to twelve months for a new store to achieve its first profitable month. To illustrate, of the 17 stores opened in the first quarter of 2016, nine were profitable in the fourth quarter of 2016. It has also been our experience that when these new stores mature and increase their sales base, their profitability similarly increases.




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