Around the Industry

April 19, 2012
Rexel acquires in France; First Solar cuts workforce; Grainger 2012 sales soar; and Top 200 surveys are in the mail.

Rexel continues acquisition binge with purchase in France

Rexel, Paris, has acquired the assets of Société Commerciale Toutelectric, a distributor in southwest France. This acquisition allows Rexel to extend its geographical footprint in France and enables the company to strengthen its relationship with its historical customer base of small and mid-sized installers, mainly dedicated to the residential and commercial end-markets. This operation should generate €85 million (approximately US $112 million) in sales on an annualized basis. Founded in 1937 and based in Toulouse, Société Commerciale Toutelectric operates through 37 branches and three logistics centers. The family-owned company serves a large base of customers mainly in the residential and commercial end-markets. Rexel has been on quite a roll recently with acquisitions and over the past few months has acquired distributors in Belgium, England Brazil, Canada, China, India and Wales.

First Solar cuts workforce by 30%

First Solar Inc., Tempe, Ariz., once a shining star in the solar space, this week announced that it was cutting its global workforce by 30%, about 2,000 positions, “in response to deteriorating market conditions in Europe and to reduce costs and align its organization with sustainable market opportunities.” A press release announcing the move said First Solar will close its manufacturing operations in Frankfurt (Oder), Germany, in the fourth quarter of 2012 and that the company will indefinitely idle four production lines at its manufacturing center in Kulim, Malaysia, on May 1. The company will also reduce personnel in Europe and the United States.

“After a thorough analysis, it’s clear the European market has deteriorated to the extent that our operations there are no longer economically sustainable, and maintaining those operations is not in the best long-term interest of our stakeholders,” said Chairman Mike Ahearn.

Grainger kicks off 2012 with 16% increase in 1Q sales

W.W. Grainger Inc., Lake Forest, Ill., got out of the blocks quickly in 2012, posting total 1Q 2012 sales of $2.2 billion — up 16% YTY over 1Q 2011. The company’s U.S. sales for the same time period were up 11% to 1.7 billion.

Roxtec makes acquisition of Sleev-It Fire Systems

Roxtec International AB, Karlskrona, Sweden, a manufacturer of modular pipe and cable penetration sealing systems, has acquired Sleev-It Fire Systems Ltd. of the United Kingdom. The acquisition of Sleev-It will enhance the Roxtec line of sealing products by providing a lightweight firestop for plastic pipes. Sleev-It Fire Systems Ltd. will continue to operate under its current name.

Calling All Distributors…It’s Top 200 Time Again!

Electrical Wholesaling magazine is once again collecting data for its annual ranking of the Top 200 electrical distributors. The ranking will be included in the June issue of the magazine. If you would like your company to be included in this year’s ranking in Electrical Wholesaling’s June issue, just go to The survey will take no more than five minutes of your time. Don’t miss out on this chance to promote your company’s size and growth.

Graybar announces new Charleston branch and solar seminars

Graybar Electric Co., St. Louis, Mo., opened a new, full-service branch in Charleston, S.C., on April 2. The new branch is located at 7219A Investment Dr. in North Charleston, S.C. The 30,000-square-foot branch will serve the Charleston metropolitan area and Berkeley, Dorchester, Georgetown and Orangeburg counties. Branch Manager Larry Smith, a 25-year Graybar veteran, will lead the branch’s 12 employees. This is the company’s sixth branch in South Carolina. Graybar also has locations in Greenville, Hilton Head, Rock Hill, Spartanburg and West Columbia.

In other news at Graybar, the company announced its training schedule for contractors who want to learn how to install photovoltaic systems. The company will host solar electric training courses in conjunction with Ontility, Houston. Classes will be held in the following cities: Teterboro, N.J. – April 16-20 and May 21-25; St. Louis, – May 14-18; and Seattle – June 11-15.

Corroding lighting fixtures a huge headache for Boston’s Big Dig

As if Boston didn’t have enough problems with its infamous “Big Dig” construction project, one of the most expensive constructions since Egypt’s Great Pyramid at Giza. According to a posting at, Massachusetts’ top highway official says all lighting fixtures in the Big Dig tunnels must be replaced at a cost of $54 million because of problems with corrosion and be replaced with LED lighting fixtures. said one of the eight-foot lighting fixtures fell from the ceiling of the Thomas P. (“Tip”) O’Neil Tunnel in Feb., 2011, and since that time engineers have “temporarily shored up the 8-foot light fixtures in the 7.5 mile tunnel system with plastic ties.” The fixtures were manufactured by NuArt Lighting, which was acquired in 2006 by National Signal Corp.

Study: Lighting controls market poised for continued growth

The lighting controls market is poised for continued growth according to a study by Verify Markets on the European and North American lighting control markets. The need for energy savings and peak demand reduction are key drivers for growth in the sector; government stimulus programs, stringent energy efficiency directives and mandates have further fueled the demand for efficient lighting products. The market size, including lighting controls modules, user interfaces, and sensors, totaled over $1.9 billion in 2011, an 8.6 percent increase from the previous year.

The market will also sustain growth from new construction projects, which were in a state of decline in years past. Although energy code compliance is driving users to implement lighting controls to demonstrate savings, the growing demand is for low-cost and simpler options. The use of sensors and dimmers remain in high demand due to their low cost, reasonable energy savings, added ambience and scene setting functionalities. Networked controls are also growing rapidly, especially the distributed controls systems with digital calibration capabilities. The studies project that the combined market size will approach $2.4 billion by 2016, due to continued need for energy efficiency and sustainability and combating increasing energy prices