Fastenal reports strong sales, earnings

Fastenal Co., the Winona-based maker and retailer of construction supplies, posted strong gains in third-quarter sales and earnings but offered a mixed outlook for economic recovery.

In a conference call, CEO Willard Oberton said a range of Fastenal's large manufacturing customers tell him they're optimistic their businesses will continue to expand.

"It's not like on fire, but they are seeing strength in backlogs, they're adding people, and they're actually looking for a very good 2011," Oberton said.

The company has opened more new stores this year than in 2009 and said it expects to accelerate the rate of store openings next year. But the company said "the duration of economic weakness" could delay its goal of reaching $125,000 in monthly average sales per store by 2012.

The company reported a 23 percent increase in total sales to $603.8 million. Earnings for the period that ended Sept. 30 jumped 58 percent to $75 million, or 51 cents a share. The results topped analysts' estimates of $595.5 million in revenue and earnings per share of 50 cents.

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