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Illustration 60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
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60886103 / Kheng Ho To / Dreamstime
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Electrical Wholesaling’s Top 200 Electrical Distributors Reveal Growth Plans for 2014

May 23, 2014
Even though the past year has been one of modest growth and many Top 200 distributors are just a little bit better than cautiously optimistic about the short-term future, many distributor execs continue to steadily invest in their businesses.
Even though the past year has been one of modest growth and many Top 200 distributors are just a little bit better than cautiously optimistic about the short-term future, many distributor execs continue to steadily invest in their businesses. Whether it’s installing a new computer system, restaffing after the recession, or opening a new branch, a key trend in the survey responses from over 140 Top 200 respondents is definitely one of reinvestment, rather than retrenching.

One of the most visible signs of this reinvestment is the number of new branches Top 200 distributors opened in the past year. As reported in EM, Graybar Electric Co., St. Louis, and Elliott Electric Supply, Nacogdoches, Texas, opened the most new branches in the nation. Other Top 200 distributors opening multiple locations last year and in 2014 include Alameda Electrical Distributors, Hayward, Calif.; Atlanta Electrical Distributors, Duluth, Ga.; Border States Electric, Fargo, N.D.; Kriz-Davis Co., Grand Island, Neb.; NESCO, Canton, Mass.; PEPCO, Willoughby, Ohio; and VEC Supply, Charlottesville, Va.

Graybar reported new branches in Montgomery, Ala.; Decatur, Ga.; Champaign and Rockford, Ill.; Dickinson and Minot, N.D.; Binghamton, N.Y.; Williamsport, Pa.; Columbia, Mo.; Boston (downtown), Mass.; and Carrizo Springs, Deer Park and Odessa, Texas. Elliott Electric Supply opened locations in Oklahoma City, Okla.; and Pearsall, Pecos, Snyder, and West Fort Worth, Texas. The company also acquired AMO Electric Supply, with locations in Fayetteville, Rodgers and Siloam Springs, Ark., and upgraded its legacy computer software with new features for outside sales, customer inventory management, order tracking, and mobile devices for customers and employees.

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Some distributors offered a glimpse of the major internal investments that they believe will position them well into the future.  In addition to opening a New York, N.Y., branch, Stephen Byrne, general manager, Facility Solutions Group, Austin, Texas, said FSG is in the midst of transformation that will “carry the company forward for the next 30 years.

“We have made significant investments in people, technology and infrastructure and have reorganized our organization to increase our focus on improved sales management and operational execution,” he said. “We are betting big on the future.”

Philip deLoache, president and CEO, FirstSource Electrical, Houston, is also optimistic. “FirstSource Electrical continues to grow by double digits year-over-year and invest in growth engines such as additional salespeople,” he said. “The stellar Houston economy provides us a market where this is possible.  We will exceed $30 million in 2014 in our sixth full year of operation.”

Julie Kingsley, controller, Electric Equipment Co., Greensboro, N.C., said a major reinvestment in the company’s IT department is one of the company’s big moves, which also include a major recruiting effort for its field service teams that provide diagnostic testing and related services, and its acquisition last year of Atlantic Control Products, Summerville, S,C., to bolster its business in industrial automation and motors.

“We are making much greater investment in digital platforms and IT,” she said in her response. “Flexibility, access and the ability to manage complex data is more important than ever. We are investing more into digital marketing, beginning with a new website and expanding into an expansive organic content program. Customers are demanding more self-service options and greater access, and we are implementing a multi-phase ecommerce program in response.

“We are also amidst a major ERP upgrade, which together with other initiatives has placed an exponential burden on our IT team. As a result, we have commenced a complete overhaul of our information technology philosophy, appointing a new CIO role and moving much of traditional support into cloud-based services.”

Some distributors are driving growth with innovative services. Steve Bellwoar, president, Colonial Electric Supply, King of Prussia, Pa., said his company recently launched “web-based Jobtrack software that provides customers remarkable access to all aspects of the project and driving demand for our project services.”

Across the country in Colorado Springs,  Colo., Blazer Electric Supply recently started up the Blazer ProFab division to provide customers with custom pipe bending and threading and labor-saving pre-assembled boxes, switches and plug drops. Steve Blazer, president, sees 10% growth in 2014, due in part to this new service, strong oil and gas, solar and residential markets and market share increases. “Just starting our fifth year in business since relaunching our company,” he wrote. “We are close to the same revenue when we sold in 1999, with half the headcount.”