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Omni Cable to Help Schneider, Eaton Establish Channel for Molded-Case Breakers

March 17, 2017
A key consideration for Omni Cable was making sure its customers would be comfortable with it expanding into the breaker market.

Wire and cable master distributor Omni Cable, headquartered in West Chester, PA, has signed agreements with two of the industry’s largest manufacturers of molded case circuit breakers (MCCBs) making Omni an authorized distributor. Both Eaton Corp., Cleveland, and Schneider Electric, Andover, MA, authorized Omni Cable to sell their MCCBs, a move that positions Omni as an approved source, reducing the market incentives for distributors to buy products from unauthorized resellers.

Setting up Omni Cable as an authorized channel for breakers addresses an age-old conundrum in the electrical market, where distributors occasionally have a legitimate need to supply customers with a brand they’re not authorized to carry. They’ll sometimes solve the problem by purchasing from a competing distributor who is authorized, but that raises its own problems in that it frequently violates the terms of that distributor’s franchise agreement. The other alternative is to buy on the gray market from non-authorized resellers and surplus dealers, a choice that manufacturers say can sometimes introduce questions about authenticity and therefore safety.

The opportunity came as a surprise for Omni Cable, said Greg Donato, COO, in an interview with Electrical Marketing. Schneider Electric approached the company to learn more about its model, “and to verify Omni Cable’s reputation and sales policies. Omni Cable does not interact directly with contractors or end users, and our model supports all electrical distributors, utilizing a national platform built around the needs of both the independent and national distributors.”

In the meantime Omni began having similar conversations with Eaton. “It’s part of a journey we’ve been on for many years,” Matt Cleary, Eaton’s channel V.P., told EM. “In spite of our best efforts to eliminate the supply side of the problem by increasing our inventory and in spite our of moves to enforce distributor agreements, it continued to be a problem. This led us to say, ‘Why couldn’t we find someone who’s already selling to distributors only, someone every distributor is already familiar with and comfortable with, and let them provide product, including to those not authorized for it, where they can buy in a legitimate way, which provides them a path to new legitimate products from an authorized source?’”

A key consideration for Omni Cable was making sure its customers would be comfortable with it expanding into the breaker market. “They were very supportive,” Donato said. “We would never have done this if we felt our core business was in jeopardy.”

Omni Cable will carry more than 1,500 SKUs in MCCBs and related accessories. The program will begin with a pilot in Connecticut, District of Columbia, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, Vermont, and West Virginia.

If the arrangement proves successful in those markets and distributors embrace it, they will look at expanding the program nationwide, Donato said.