Each year, Electrical Wholesaling magazine, one of CEE News' sister publications, publishes a listing of the largest 250 electrical distributors in the United States. It's an industry benchmark that's used to measure sales, consolidation and the growth of the largest electrical distributors.

To give contractors a glimpse of what's happening with their suppliers, this article will offer an analysis of the key challenges that confront electrical distributors and a listing of the 100 largest distributors.

Slower growth

Total 2001 sales for the 250 largest electrical distributors decreased by 8.4% to an estimated $36.9 billion. The decrease seems relatively small, compared to some of the year-to-year sales declines that electrical distributors experienced in the first half of 2002.

For the second year in a row, the Top 250's market share of total sales through electrical distributors was at the 50% mark. This important milestone is a clear indication of the increased pace of consolidation in the electrical wholesaling industry. But it's important to remember that at least 4,000 other distributors of electrical supplies probably account for about $36.3 billion in sales. (According to Electrical Wholesaling's 2001 Market Planning Guide, distributors forecasted $73.3 billion in total sales for 2001.)

The industry continues to consolidate faster each year, but at the current rate it will take many years to approach the consolidation in the electronics or pharmaceutical distribution industries, where a handful of companies account for the vast majority of sales.

Consolidation

When one compares the 2002 Top 250 listing with the listing compiled in 1992, the pace of consolidation becomes apparent — at least 52 companies from the 1992 listing have been acquired or merged with other companies.

While consolidation has slowed down in the last year, as you can see in the chart on this page, it's still reshaping the electrical wholesaling industry. In less than two years, according to reports in Electrical Marketing newsletter, at least 40 companies have been acquired. Many of these companies were 250 Biggest distributors, and most were acquired by the U.S. or North American subsidiaries of Hagemeyer NV, Naarden, Netherlands; Rexel SA, Paris; and Sonepar SA, Paris.

While no market areas are untouched by consolidation, some felt it more than others. During the past year, the California market has seen some big acquisitions, led by San Diego-based OneSource Distributor Inc.'s acquisitions of Argo Electric Supply Co., Downey, Calif.; Orange Coast Electric Supply Co. Inc., Irvine, Calif.; and Pacific Parts and Controls Inc., Chino, Calif.

LARGEST ACQUISITIONS OF ELECTRICAL DISTRIBUTORS 2000-2002
Company Headquarters Acquirer
Briggs-Weaver (industrial distributor)** Coppell, TX CamBar/Hagemeyer
Dauphin Associates Inc.* Harrisburg, PA CED Inc.
Seamans Supply Co.*** Manchester, NH CLS Inc.
Questron Technology Inc.*** Dallas, TX GE Supply
Commonwealth Controls Corp.** Richmond, VA Graybar Electric Co.
Cameron & Barkley Co.* Charleston, SC Hagemeyer, N.V.
RERO Distribution Companies Inc.* Rochester, NY Merged into Horizon Solutions Inc.
Holmes Distributors Inc.* Portland, ME Merged into Horizon Solutions Inc.
Oakes Electrical Supply Co.* Holyoke, MA Merged into Horizon Solutions Inc.
Futronix Systems* Houston, TX Houston Wire and Cable
Gaines Electric*** Signal Hill, CA Independent Electric Supply
Cummins Utility Supply (certain assets)** Fort Worth, TX Irby Utility Supply LLC
Fitzpatrick Electric Supply Co.** Muskegon, MI Kendall Electric
Grand Eagle Motor Repair*** Utica, NY K.J. Electric Corp.
Fairmont Supply Co. (certain branches)* Canonsburg, PA McBar joint venture
McJunkin Corp. (electrical operations)* Charleston, WV McBar joint venture
Kiemle Hankins Co. (supply division)*** Toledo, OH McNaughton-McKay Electric Co.
Orange Coast Electric Supply Inc.** Irvine, CA One Source Distributors Inc.
Argo Electric Supply Co.*** Downey, CA One Source Distributors Inc.
Pacific Parts and Controls Inc.*** Chino, CA One Source Distributors Inc.
Intec Automation & Supply** Toledo, OH Professional Electrical Products Co. (PEPCO)
Branch Electric Supply Co.* Upper Marlboro, MD Rexel Inc.
Commerce Electric Supply** Linthicum, MD Rexel Inc.
Electric Supply of Asheville** Asheville, NC Rexel Inc.
Active Electric Supply Inc.** Orlando, FL Rexel Inc.
Quality Supply Co.** Poteau, OK Rexel Inc.
Maverick Electric Supply Inc.* Dallas, TX Rexel Inc.
Westburne Inc.* St. Laurent, Quebec Rexel Inc.
Ryall Electric Supply** Denver, CO Rexel Inc.
Del Electric Supply** Gaithersburg, MD Sonepar USA
Richards Electric Supply** Miami, FL Sonepar USA
Viking Electric Supply Inc.* St. Paul, MN Sonepar USA
Capital Lighting & Supply Inc.* Alexandria, VA Sonepar USA
Brook Electrical Distribution Co.* Lincolnshire, IL Sonepar USA
Elite Electric & Utility Supply** Charlottesville, VA Sonepar USA (Capital Lighting)
Dixie Electric Supply Corp.* Richmond, VA Sonepar USA (Capital Lighting)
Davis Electric Supply Inc.* Clearwater, FL Sonepar USA (World Electric Supply)
B&B Electrical Supply*** Putnam, CT Standard Electric Supply
Tri-Electric Supply (DXP)** San Antonio, TX Summit Electric Supply, Inc.
Franklin & Smith Inc.*** West Paterson, NJ Turtle & Hughes Inc.
Northland Electric Supply** Minneapolis, MN Werner/VanMeter
Control Corporation of America* Richmond, VA WESCO International Inc.
Herning Enterprises Inc.** Hayward, CA WESCO International Inc.
United Electric Supply Co.* St. Louis, MO Westburne Supply Inc. U.S.
ANESCO* Kingston, PA Westburne Supply Inc. U.S.
SPT Electric Group* Belle Mead, NJ Westburne Supply Inc. U.S.
*Acquired in 2000
**Acquired in 2001
***Acquired in 2002

Since 1998, the Baltimore-Washington metropolitan area has seen the acquisitions of the Branch Group, Upper Marlboro, Md.; Capital Lighting and Supply, Alexandria, Va.; Commerce Electric Supply, Linthicum, Md.; Lee Electric Inc., Baltimore; and Tristate Electrical and Electronics Inc., Hagerstown, Md.

The Minneapolis market has a new look, too. Sonepar purchased Viking Electric Supply Inc., St. Paul, Minn. The joint venture of Van Meter Industrial, Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Werner Electric Supply, Neenah, Wis., bought Northland Electric Supply, Minneapolis. Werner planned on acquiring Van Meter and Northland last year but left a provision in the letter of intent allowing for a poor economy. So now Werner and Van Meter are 50% owners of Northland.

National chains continue to grow

Another measure of industry consolidation is the market share of the national chains. The industry's national chains, Graybar Electric Co. Inc., St. Louis; WESCO International Inc., Pittsburgh; Consolidated Electrical Distributors Inc., Westlake Village, Calif.; and GE Supply Inc., Shelton, Conn., are the four companies with branches in all regions of the United States. In 2001, their combined sales volume was $13.3 billion, and their combined market share was more than 18%. That's up a point from 2001. If one considers Rexel a national distributor and adds its $2 billion in sales to this figure, the market share of national chains tops 20%.

Methodology

To qualify for a spot on the 250 Biggest list this year, a firm had to have about $16 million in electrical product sales for 2001 at wholesale. That includes sales of products a typical electrical distributor handles, such as lighting fixtures sold at retail in a lighting showroom and voice/data communication products. It does, however, exclude revenues from motor repair, plumbing supplies, mill supplies and the like.

The firms in the listing are ranked by dollar sales volume insofar as possible. To place a firm on the list, we estimate its sales if the distributor did not provide it, using publicly available information and our own records of comparable company and geographic area data. Both full-line and specialized electrical distributors qualify for ranking, as well as companies that have multiple types of businesses.

The numbers provided for houses and employee counts are for all locations in the United States, North America and internationally.

The electrical distributors who provided both a sales figure and a total number of employees had a sales per employee figure of $523,765, a big increase over the $421,000 sales per employee in last year's listing.

The table at right provides an overview of activity among the top 100 companies of the electrical distribution industry. It also serves as a guide to the entire industry's size and structure. Most important in this time of industry change, it provides a reality check on the status of the electrical distribution industry's consolidation. The business remains highly fragmented, with some movement toward consolidation.

AVERAGE SALES PER EMPLOYEE AMONG THE 250 BIGGEST
2001 $524,000
2000 $421,000
1999 $408,000
1998 $411,000
1997 $392,000

Based on the 189 distributors who furnished both a sales number and an employee count, the average sales per employee came in at $523,765 for 2001, a huge jump of more than $100,000 over 2000.

The increase in sales-per-employee number can most likely be explained by the many electrical distributorships that have reduced personnel.

Company (Parent) Headquarters 2001 Sales Employees Houses President or CEO
1 Graybar Electric Co. Inc.* St. Louis, MO 4,800,000,000 9,100 275 R. A. Reynolds Jr.
2 WESCO Distribution Pittsburgh, PA 3,658,033,000 5,677 346 R. Haley
3 Anixter Inc. (Anixter International) Skokie, IL 3,100,000,000 4,900 170 R. Grubbs
4 Consolidated Electrical Distributors Inc. Westlake Village, CA NA NA 528e D. Bursch
5 GE Supply Co. (General Electric Co.) Shelton, CT 2,302,000,000 2,300 150 W.L. Meddaugh
6 Rexel Inc.* Dallas, TX 2,000,000,000 + 5000+ 325+ D. Waterman
7 Sonepar USA* Berwyn, PA 1,200,000,000 3,101 161 R.E. Worthy
8 Crescent Electric Supply Co. East Dubuque, IL 609,000,000 NA 112e J. Etheredge
9 Hughes Supply Inc./Electrical Division Orlando, FL 575,460,270 1,027 80+e D. Hughes
10 Hagemeyer North America* Atlanta, GA 536,800,000 e 1,732e NA D. Gundling
11 McNaughton-McKay Electric Co. Madison Heights, MI 450,000,000 930 27 D. Beattie
12 Communications Supply Corp. Carol Stream, IL 440,000,000 670 30 S.J. Riordan
13 W.W. Grainger Inc. Lake Forest, IL 336,000,000 1,732e 600e R. Keyser
14 Stuart C. Irby Co. Jackson, MS 321,125,092 743 40 S.M. Irby
15 Border States Electric Supply Fargo, ND 315,500,000 595 23 B.Thrall
16 Platt Electric Supply Inc. Beaverton, OR 298,605,031 710 66 H.J. Platt
17 Mayer Electric Supply Co. Inc. Birmingham, AL 292,122,440 624 37 J. Summerlin
18 Kirby Risk Electrical Supply Lafayette, IN NA NA 33e J.K. Risk III
19 Warren Electric Group Houston, TX 271,000,000 563e 29e C.L. Thompson-Draper
20 Dealers Electrical Supply Co. Waco, TX NA 700e 51 S. Bracey
21 North Coast Electric Co. Bellevue, WA 225,000,000 482 26 P. Lemman
22 Utiliserve Inc. Corinth, TX 214,000,000 210 30 R. McClure
23 Independent Electric Supply San Carlos, CA 205,000,000 347 18 R. Snow
24 Houston Wire & Cable Co. Houston, TX NA 295 10e C. Sorrentino
25 Kendall Electric Inc. Battle Creek, MI 200,000,000 + 700+ 28 M. Ranly
26 Turtle & Hughes Inc. Linden, NJ 190,000,000 345 7e S.T. Millard
27 Steiner Electric Co. Elk Grove Village, IL 170,000,000 540 6 H.M. Kerman
28 Wholesale Electric Supply Co. of Houston L.P. Houston, TX 163,000,000 284 8 M. J. Rutland
29 Scott Electric Co. Greensburg, PA NA 947 12 S. Scott
30 State Electric Supply Co. Inc. Huntington, WV NA 621 31 A. Weisberg
31 CLS Hartford, CT 156,000,000 280 18 R. Compagna
32 Walters Wholesale Electric Co. Long Beach, CA 140,000,000 380 17 J. Walters
33 TVESCO Inc. Memphis, TN 136,000,000 197 16e J.D. Liles
34 Summit Electric Supply Co. Inc. Albuquerque, NM 135,601,090 305 10 V.R. Jury Jr.
35 Elliott Electric Supply Nacogdoches, TX 135,337,119 462 44 W.M. Elliott
36 Rumsey Electric Co. Conshohocken, PA 125,527,000 287 10e G. Lihota
37 Standard Electric Wilmington, MA 125,000,000 299 11 D. Miller
38 Dominion Electric Supply Co. Inc. Arlington, VA 120,000,000 245 7 R.S. Sharlin
39 OneSource Distributors Inc. San Diego, CA 114,000,000 270 10 R.S. Zamarripa
40 Electrical Wholesalers Inc. Hartford, CT NA 310 19 A. Namerow
41 Washington Cable Supply Lanham, MD 105,000,000 46 2 W.H. Parker
42 United Electric Supply Co. Inc. Wilmington, DE 100,451,000 252 10 T. Cloud
43 Maddux Supply Co. Greensboro, NC 100,000,000 269 13 J.B. Mathis
44 Kriz-Davis Co. Grand Island, NE 97,100,000 198 12e M.C. Draemel
45 Maurice Electrical Supply Washington, DC 95,000,000 160 2 B. Kogod
46 Reynolds Co., The Dallas, TX 95,000,000 155 6 W. Reynolds
47 Standard Electric Co. Saginaw, MI NA 233e 20 L.N. Weber
48 Winlectric Inc. Dayton, OH 93,000,000 NA 46 S. Ford
49 Electrical Equipment Co. Raleigh, NC 92,969,000 303 11 T.J. Lawson
50 Eck Supply Co. Richmond, VA 92,000,000 220 14e E.C. Eck
51 Nunn Electric Supply Corp. Amarillo, TX 92,000,000 268e 26 R.L. Burdette
52 Van Meter Industrial Inc. Cedar Rapids, IA 92,000,000 223 14e J. Schmitt
53 Springfield Electric Supply Co. Springfield, IL 90,780,000 255 11e W. Schnirring
54 Stoneway Electric Supply Co. Inc. Spokane, WA 90,000,000 210 14e E.J. Ralph
55 Werner Electric Supply Co. Neenah, WI 88,840,000 217 6e L.T. MacDonald
56 City Electric Supply Co. Orlando, FL NA 520 76e R. Swanson
57 French Gerleman Electric Co. Maryland Heights, MO 7,150,781 230 5e W.B. French
58 Noland Co.^^ Newport News, VA 85,300,000 255e NA L.U. Noland III
59 Horizon Solutions Inc. Rochester, NY 83,655,000 198e 7 J.R. Wilson
60 Stanion Wholesale Electric Co. Inc. Pratt, KS 83,000,000 248 18 W.M. Keller
61 Madison Electric Co. Warren, MI NA 175 11 J. Schneider
62 Minarik Electric Corp. Glendale, CA NA NA 18e J. Hegel
63 Benfield Electric Supply Co. Inc. White Plains, NY 80,343,802 175 6 R.C. Kohli
64 Colonial Electric Supply King of Prussia, PA 79,000,000 230 9 S. Bellwoar
65 A.E. Petsche Co. Inc. Dallas, TX 77,000,000 110 7 G.K. Davidson
66 Dakota Electric Supply Co. Fargo, ND 75,000,000 200 10 B. Herr
67 Power/Mation St. Paul, MN NA 150e 6 J. Landis
68 Billows Electric Supply Co. Philadelphia, PA NA 230 NA J.L. Billow
69 Professional Electric Products Co. aka PEPCO Eastlake, OH 73,000,000 125 4 J. Borkey
70 United Utility Supply Cooperative Louisville, KY 73,000,000 46 6 R. Sheets
71 Monarch Electric Co. West Caldwell, NJ NA 80 2 S. Perlman
72 Becker Electric Supply Dayton, OH 69,072,565 216 NA T.J. Becker
73 Loeb Electric Co. Columbus, OH 69,000,000 125 7 C.A. Loeb
74 Western Extralite Co. Kansas City, MO 69,000,000 210 12 T. Isenberg
75 Yale Electrical Supply Co. Inc. Boston, MA 68,000,000 36 4 W. Sheinkopf
76 Rural Electric Supply Co. aka RESCO Madison, WI 66,500,000 49 4 J. Strom
77 Eoff Electric Salem, OR 66,000,000 172 9 L. Williamson
78 Codale Electric Supply Inc. Salt Lake City, UT 65,000,000 e 107 5 D. Holt
79 Reed City Power Line Reed City, MI 65,000,000 44 3 M.R. Bigford
80 Revere Electric Supply Co. Chicago, IL 65,000,000 130 5 T. Eiseman
81 Shepherd Electric Co. Inc. Baltimore, MD 62,500,000 130 2 C.C. Vogel III
82 Friedman Electric Supply Co. Exeter, PA NA 205 9 R.C. Friedman
83 QED Inc. Denver, CO 60,436,382 129 7 D. Stauffer
84 Locke Wholesale Electric Supply Oklahoma City, OK 60,306,692 215e 5e C. Marsh
85 DH Supply Co. Inc. Atlanta, GA NA NA 5e D.H. Hicks Jr.
86 Electro-Matic Products Inc. Farmington Hills, MI NA 100 NA J. Baker
87 Omni Cable Corp. West Chester, PA NA 103 7 J. Siegfried
88 Minnesota Electric Supply Co. Willmar, MN 58,137,000 130 8 S. Peterson
89 Electrical Distributors Co. San Jose, CA 58,049,817 122 4 C. Lehmann
90 Edson Electric Supply Inc. Phoenix, AZ 57,700,000 115 9e B. Edson
91 Argo International Corp. (of Delcal Enterprises) New York, NY 56,307,786 140e 27 J. Santa Croce
92 J. H. Larson Electrical Co. Golden Valley, MN 56,000,000 162e 7 G. Pahl
93 Western United Electric Supply Corp. Brighton, CO 55,500,000 23 1 R.L. Schott
94 Crawford Electric Supply Dallas, TX 55,000,000 55 2 C. Levering
95 Schaedler Yesco Distribution Harrisburg, PA 55,000,000 135 4 J.D. Schaedler
96 Hite Co., The Altoona, PA 53,500,000 188 16e R. Hite
97 Tri-State Utility Products Inc. Marietta, GA NA 25 3 W.H. Patterson
98 Butler Supply Inc. Fenton, MO NA 185 23 R. Butler
99 JESCO/Interstate Wholesale Electrical Supplies Inc. Sioux Center, IA 51,000,000 176 10 J. Franken/M. Lane
100 Industrial Electric Wire & Cable New Berlin, WI NA NA 5e D. Nestingen

* Includes all North American sales.

** Acquired in 2002 by Independent Electric Supply.

^^ Electrical sales account for about 18% of total company sales.

e Estimated by the respondent or by the authors.

NA Not available.

Note: Sales and employee figures cover electrical business only.