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Rep Mergers Take Center Stage as Agencies Look to Expand Regional Footprints

Dec. 21, 2022

Electrical Marketing reports regularly on distributor mergers and acquisitions, but over the past year we have seen quite a few mergers in the rep world. Independent manufacturers’ reps are using M&As to expand in adjacent territories, and in many but not all cases, they are expanding their coverage for manufacturers in these new territories.

Over the past year, EM has reported on at least six mergers of rep agencies. Several of them have been in the lighting market. One of the bigger mergers involved three agencies in the Upper Midwest region, where Convergence Partners Inc., North Kansas City, MO, merged with Integrated Sales Inc., Lavista, NE, and Lighting Solutions of Iowa Inc., Van Meter, IA.

The three companies formed a strategic partnership that would offer customers a unified resource for virtually all their products, services and design requirements throughout Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska and Kansas (MINK states), according to a Current press release. This partnership is now marketed under the Convergence Partners brands.

Prior to the strategic partnership, the three companies represented Current’s GLI, HLI and Forum Brands and will now expand its combined representation to include the HLI Brand portfolio in the state of Nebraska.

SESCO Lighting, Maitland, FL, quite possibly the largest lighting agency in the country, merged with at least four other lighting agencies over the past five years (see chart below). It most recently acquired WHOCO Lighting & Controls to expand in the Carolinas. According to a post on www.uslightingtrends.com, SESCO has 22 locations in the Southeast with 375 employees; and does more than $400 million on sales.

Ewing-Foley, Cupertino, CA, expanded its coverage of the Denver market and Intermountain region earlier this year with its Ryall Group merger. The company previously acquired EDG Reps Phoenix (2017); and ElectriGroup, Sacramento, CA (2011).

Executives at Ewing-Foley and Ryall said at the time of the merger that they believe that to be most effective in today's rapidly consolidating market, agencies must combine traditional territories and create business zones that more accurately reflect their customers' cross-territory needs.

Gary Lessing, Ewing-Foley president, and CEO, said in the press release, “Ewing-Foley and Ryall Group are among a small number of remaining independent representatives across the country who have complementary and contiguous territories, synergistic line cards and who possess the business acumen to make one plus one equal three.”

Dan Ryall, president, and CEO of Ryall Group, said in the press release that after investigating several other strategic options they felt EFI was its best choice in helping us scale to the next level. "We recognized that we needed the back-office support and business systems EFI has successfully deployed across their other territories to achieve our goals, he said in the press release. “Developing this capability is a long and costly journey for any representative firm, and we are fortunate to leverage the years of work EFI has done in this area.”

JD Martin, Houston completed two mergers in 2022. The company joined forces with Integrated Component Sales Inc., Winter Park, FL, and I-Pro, Denver. Four years ago, it merged with The Schell Co., Mandeville, LA.

Rounding out 2022's rep mergers (through Dec. 21 when EM went to press) were the deals consummated by Lester Sales Co., Indianapolis. It merged with Cardel-Criste, Scott Depot, WV, and certain assets of the western Pennsylvania and West Virginia operations of Paolicelli/One Source Associates. At the time of the merger, a Lester press release said the two acquisitions served Lester’s long-term plan for progressive growth into the contiguous NEMRA territories and that with the two deals the company now serves key partners in nine Midwestern states.