W.W. Grainger, the largest U.S. direct marketer of maintenance repair and operation products, has formed a joint venture with Sumitomo, Japan's largest trading house, to start a DM-based MRO business in Japan.
The joint venture, Sumisho-Grainger, has started testing in the western part of the country and, Japanese DM sources report, plans to roll out across Japan in the fall from its base in Osaka.
It has put up a Sumisho-Grainger Web site that contains about 250,000 MRO items. A print catalog is due soon. The company is sourcing products on the Japanese domestic market rather than shipping them from the United States.
Sumitomo, which has joint ventures worldwide, usually takes a majority stake in companies aimed at the Japanese market.
Grainger has been interested in entering Japan for several years, the sources reported, because “there are so few players in Japan's MRO market, making it attractive for a western DM company.”
Sumitomo has also considered expanding into the MRO market, but lacked local partnership talent.
Neither company would comment on the progress of the joint venture nor reveal any other details.