By Jack Keough
Mergers and acquisitions were the big stories in 2012, as we’ve reported in recent articles, but there were a number of other newsworthy items that we covered this year.
Certainly one of the most important-and this will continue to be so in the years ahead-is LEDs and lighting regulations. We presented a special report on LEDs during the year.
Jesse Root, in an article for tED magazine, wrote that LEDs are the most important technology that electrical distributors have been presented with in decades.
Root offered a number of tips to help distributors understand their options available for electrical distributors in the LED market.
New regulations were also important for the electrical distribution channel.
Effective 1 January 2012, standard 100 W bulbs were required to increase 30% in efficiency and can no longer be manufactured for sale in the United States. The requirements will also apply to 75 W (effective 2013), 60 W and 40 W (effective 2014).
The Department of Energy did grant a deadline extension on some T8 products with a stop manufacture date of July 14.
Throughout the year, tED focused on changes taking place in the marketplace and the need for recruiting, training and finding new markets. We also discussed the problem of counterfeit products and their impact on electrical distributors and manufacturers and how it is endangering customers.
But training is critical as distributors carry more technical products. A feature article in the February issue of tED focused on Loeb Supply, a company that requires each employee to undergo 50 hours of training per year. Training is critical as distributors carry more and more technical products.
The need to adapt to change has been the focus of 2012-2013 NAED chair Clarence Martin, CEO and CFO of State Electric Supply. In a column in tED magazine, Martin pointed out that electrical distributors must not only adapt to new technologies but a multi-generational workforce. He also noted that distributors are looking to “emerging markets” like IT and healthcare.
Distributors also continued to focus on “going green” in 2012 both internally in their own operations as well as entrance into markets like wind power, electric motor vehicles, solar and other alternative energy sources.
While those markets have been strong, electrical distributors and manufacturers are worried about the tax credits for those sources expiring at year’s end. Already, as we reported in October and November, thousands of workers have been laid off in the wind power sector with thousands more expected. That is something we will be closely following in the months ahead.
Western Extralite, which, as tED noted, has blazed a broad green trail in its own business operations, was recognized by the association as tED’s 2012 Greenest of the Green electrical distributor.
Industrial and electrical distributors were also faced with a new competitor in 2012 when AmazonSupply.com entered the marketplace. With its new launch, Amazon took aim at business, scientific and commercial customers.
Although it is too early to judge just how effective this new venture will be, electrical distributors told us they’re unconcerned but at the same time many said they would be concentrating on their websites and online capabilities.
Distributors also entered the mobile application field. Grainger, for example, came out with its own application for mobile phones as did a number of other distributors. Leff Electric of Cleveland, Ohio introduced its web-based application called Leff Mobile. The app allows customers to remotely request SKUs and provide directions via GPS to the nearest location among Leff’s eight branches that is holding the desired stock.
The big story that began in November was, of course, Superstorm Sandy. Electrical distributors and manufacturers were on the scene of the devastating storm in Connecticut, New York and New Jersey.
Economic uncertainty, partly due to the fiscal cliff, also was a big story at the end of the year.
On the positive side, there were a number of awards presented during 2012. Tom Cloud, CEO and chairman of United Electric Supply was presented with NAED’s highest honor, the Arthur W. Hooper Award.
There were a number of personnel changes that took place as well. In June, Bob Reynolds, a long-time industry veteran stepped down as chairman and CEO of Graybar to become executive board chair. He will retire Jan. 1, 2013 after a 40-year-career with the St. Louis-based company. Kathleen Mazzarella, former executive VP and COO was named to succeed Reynolds.
David Oldfather became president of the electrical division of Affiliated Distributors while Jack Templin was named president of the industrial supply division.
Jack Keough was the editor of Industrial Distribution magazine for more than 26 years. He often speaks at many industry events and seminars. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.comTagged with distribution, lighting, tED