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A New Era Dawns For Trade Service

Aug. 29, 2008
You don’t have to talk for very long to Tony Dubreville, the president, CEO and chairman of Trade Service Corp., San Diego, before you hear how excited he is that the company is operating again as a fully functioning independent company.

You don’t have to talk for very long to Tony Dubreville, the president, CEO and chairman of Trade Service Corp., San Diego, before you hear how excited he is that the company is operating again as a fully functioning independent company.

The company is no longer confined by the restrictions of the data-sharing agreement with IDEA, Rosslyn, Va., which ended last month (See EM – July 25, page 1). While Trade Service had a relatively low profile during the past 10 years on the distributor side of its business due to the IDEA partnership, it was investing heavily in its Tra-ser database for electrical contractors and invested millions to augment thousands of SKUs in its core electrical pricing and product information with attributed data. And since the 2005 management buyout from I2 Technologies, Dubreville, a 24-year company veteran, no longer has to worry about I2’s cost cutting. Add in the financial weight of a $55 million investment from GF Capital, a New York-based investment firm, and you see why he and his management team are optimistic about the company’s future and passionate about its products.

At the center of all of Trade Service’s operations is its massive database. The electrical database alone has 2.7 million SKUs from 631 manufacturers and 1,300 brands from those vendors. This database is growing by 50,000 SKUs per month. In addition, the company’s electrical product specialists update an average of 500,000 SKUs per month and add attributed data such as images and catalog pages to 75,000 SKUs per month. Trade Service also provides cross references for 150,000 items and offers 16,000 SKUs cross-referenced with the Department of Energy’s Energy Star designation.

Today, Trade Service’s key products for distributors include its eDataFlex electronic pricing and product information, which contains 2 million items from 400 manufacturers and 700,000 SKUs of rich content; the eDataFlex Catalog Connect data that distributors can use for Web-based catalogs; the Comparator Web cross- referencing tool and its 85,000 SKUs; and the soon-to-be officially released SupplierXchange, which links to electrical contractors through their estimating systems to selected electrical distributors and enables them to get custom pricing that they can use in their estimating bids. This gives their distributor partner an early heads-up on upcoming construction projects in their market areas.

For electrical contractors, the company offers its Tra-ser product and pricing service, a 1.5 million SKU database with items from 550 manufacturers that offers “column three” pricing, product information and images.

According to the cover story for next month’s issue of Electrical Wholesaling magazine, the company will be soon be launching several new products that take advantage of this database. During the 10 years that it supplied data to the IDEA industry data warehouse (IDW), Trade Service was quietly adding attributed data such as images and catalog pages to product records and expanding its data offerings to electrical contractors. Said Tod Moore, the company’s vice president of sales and marketing, “We really took a back seat to IDEA and we did that by design. We didn’t want to look like two organizations bashing it out. We were a partner, and we tried to be the best partner we could while competing. Now that we are separating, we have to reinvigorate our brand and our image. We grew a lot as a company in the 10 years we were with IDEA.”

The SupplierXchange effort is an intriguing bet by Trade Service on how it believes electrical contractors want to select and purchase products in the future. The company’s executives don’t think most contractors want to shop for products the way a consumer might buy a pair of khaki trousers at www.llbean.com. Instead, Trade Service believes they want the purchasing function closer to their business system and estimating package when they are doing a bid. SupplierXchange will let them establish a secure, online link with selected electrical distributors so the distributor can provide customized pricing that can be imported into estimating packages and used to create more realistic bids.

Dubreville said Trade Service is happy with its role as a data provider and has no intentions of getting into the procurement/e-commerce end of the business. “SupplierXchange is not a shopping tool or a procurement tool, says Dubreville. “It’s a way for a contractor to become closer to a distributor. It drives cost out of the ultimate transaction.”