As a reminder, today's conference call includes statements regarding the company's anticipated financial and operating results, as well as other forward-looking statements based on current expectations as defined by the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Forward-looking statements may often be identified with words such as we expect, we anticipate, upcoming or similar indications of future expectations. It is important to note that the company's actual results may differ material from those anticipated. Information on factors that could cause actual results to differ material from these forward-looking statements are contained in the company's periodic filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, and we encourage you to review those carefully.Investors are cautioned not to place undue reliance on such forward-looking statements as there is no assurance that the matter contained in such statements will occur. Forward-looking statements are made as of today's date only, and we undertake no duty to update the information provided on this call. I would now like to turn the call over to Will Oberton. Go ahead, Mr. Oberton. Willard D. Oberton Good morning, everybody, and thanks for joining us on our first quarter conference call. Starting out, I'd like to say that I believe it was a -- or I feel it was a good quarter. Our sales growth was right on plan. Looking at our internal sales goals. In January, we're at 100.6% of goal; February, 98.8% of goal; and March, 101.3% of goal. So for the quarter, we're at 100.3% of goal. I'm not sure if it's good sales growth or good forecasting. But whatever, we're right on target this far into the year. I also take a look at the 2-year growth numbers because as we look at the sequential numbers, trying to understand what the patterns are, but sometimes it's easier to look at the 2-year. And if you look at the 2-year growth numbers that we put in the report and combine 2010 and 2011, there was 40.1% growth in January, 41.5% in February and 42.1% in March. So we continue to march forward and also show a very consistent growth.
The other reason I feel pretty good about the sales growth is if you look at the purchasing index that was also in the release, last year through the first 3 months, the average for the country, the U.S. market is at 59.8%, a very high rating. This year, still a good reading but it's down to 53.3%, so it's really 6.5 points lower. And we had similar -- our growth was off a little bit but very similar. So I think the initiatives we're putting in place are working well.This week, I had the opportunity to visit -- this week, we're holding our customer show down in Indianapolis, where we bring in about 4,000 to 5,000 customers and 200 suppliers, and we let our customers visit our suppliers and the product. But anyway, that gave me the opportunity to visit with dozens of companies, both suppliers and our customers, also to speak with many of our managers. And the mood is very upbeat. So I was optimistic about that. Many of our customers believe they're going to have a good year, continue to have a good year. And many of the suppliers are hearing that not only from the Fastenal people, but also from other customers. So it was a very upbeat show and gave us a good feel for the next couple months. In the report, there was, I believe -- moving on, there's only one negative in our report this quarter, one major negative, and that was the margin. Spend a lot of time looking at the margin, trying to analyze what we're doing and what we need to do. And after spending a time analyzing it and discussing it with most of our sales leaders down in Indianapolis this week, the conclusion I came to, and I hate to say this, but my conclusion is that we've basically taken our eye off the ball a little bit working on other things. But after the discussions I had with the regionals, with our sales leader and our National Accounts sales leaders, I'm very confident that we know what we need to do, and we will see improvement in the second quarter. So we're going to work very hard on that. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com