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CONDENSED CONSOLIDATED STATEMENTS OF EARNINGS (UNAUDITED) (USD $)
In Thousands, except Share data, unless otherwise specified
3 Months Ended
Mar. 31, 2011
Mar. 31, 2010
Income Statement [Abstract]    
Net sales $ 1,883,612 $ 1,672,354
Cost of merchandise sold 1,053,998 966,612
Gross profit 829,614 705,742
Warehousing, marketing and administrative expenses 567,000 522,857
Operating earnings 262,614 182,885
Other income and (expense):    
Interest income 480 241
Interest expense (1,878) (2,030)
Equity in net income (loss) of unconsolidated entity - net 100 (80)
Other non-operating income 147 427
Other non-operating expense (299) (453)
Total other income and (expense) (1,450) (1,895)
Earnings before income taxes 261,164 180,990
Income taxes 102,076 81,573
Net earnings 159,088 99,417
Less: Net earnings attributable to noncontrolling interest 1,155 244
Net earnings attributable to W.W. Grainger, Inc. $ 157,933 $ 99,173
Earnings per share    
Basic (in dollars per share) $ 2.23 $ 1.34
Diluted (in dollars per share) $ 2.18 $ 1.31
Weighted average number of shares outstanding:    
Basic (in shares) 69,403,432 72,576,633
Diluted (in shares) 70,906,732 73,854,681
Cash dividends paid per share (in dollars per share) $ 0.54 $ 0.46