Graybar Branches Out

May 13, 2013
A key component of Graybar’s branch expansion campaign is its SAP ERP system, which simplifies the process of adding new branch locations.

Graybar Electric Co., St. Louis, is continuing its aggressive branch expansion campaign with the opening of new branches in Binghamton, N.Y. and Williamsport, Pa. The company will also be adding a customer counter and on-site inventory to its existing location in Hudson Valley, N.Y.

The Binghamton and Williamsport branches are the fourth and fifth new locations Graybar has opened in 2013. The company has also opened locations this year in Dickinson, N.D.; Carrizo Springs, Texas; and Rockford, Ill.

 Led by Branch Manager Mike Schaefer, the full-service Williamsport branch supports industrial, commercial and construction customers in Clinton, Columbia, Lycoming, Montour, Northumberland, Sullivan, Bradford, Tioga and Union counties and the Marcellus Shale region. The new Binghamton branch will serve that city’s metro area as well as Broome, Chemung, Chenago, Cortland, Delaware, Otsego, Tioga and Tompkins counties in New York and Susquehanna and Wayne counties in Pennsylvania. Branch Supervisor Lex Brown, a 27-year veteran of the electrical industry, will lead the branch’s five employees.

Graybar is also expanding its existing sales office in Hudson Valley, N.Y., to include on-site inventory and a customer counter. It’s led by Branch Manager Ginger Jett and serves the Hudson Valley region of Westchester, Ulster, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan, Orange and Dutchess counties. In addition to the new locations Graybar has opened so far this year, the company opened branches in Charleston, S.C.; Lincoln, Neb.; Lafayette, Ind.; and Joplin, Mo., in 2012.

Jeff Netherton, Graybar’s director of corporate real estate development, says Bob Reynolds, the company’s retired executive chairman, started the branch expansion initiative several years ago and that Graybar’s appetite to gain market share through branch openings has accelerated under Kathleen Mazzarella, Graybar’s chairman, president and CEO. Netherton said that while the new locations in Dickinson, N.D., and Carrizo Springs, Texas, were opened to support the growth of the oil and gas industries in those markets, gaining new sales opportunities from oil fracking is only one reason Graybar has been opening so many new branches over the past two years.

“As we look across the country and we look at our map, we know there is an opportunity to expand our service offering to not only our core customer base but to expand our customer base into areas that have not historically been covered by Graybar with a facility,” said Netherton in an exclusive interview last month with Electrical Wholesaling.

He added that Graybar takes a methodic approach to researching market areas where it’s not currently located by analyzing market potential and population growth. There are many geographic areas that may be growth opportunities for Graybar. Graybar looks to capitalize on that market share, Netherton said.

Graybar uses its existing regional distribution centers (RDCs) in seven zones across the United States and 10 district service centers to support the new branch locations and other branches in its network of 230-plus stocking locations.

“Where we can, we try to use economies of scale to support more of an outlying region with a customer base, but our core support to the customer base is still to have local inventory for same-day and next-day requirements,” Netherton said. “The RDCs allow us to have breadth and depth of inventory that sometimes our competition won’t have. Many of our competitors have to reach out to the manufacturer for a lead time of a couple of days or a week, where we can reach into our expanded inventory at these RDCs and have it next day or same day for our customers.”

Netherton says Graybar tends to lease rather than buy or build facilities in new markets. Rather than use a cookie-cutter approach to make all branches look exactly the same, the company tends to modify the counter, warehouse and sales office to the available space.

“Our preference in these new markets would be to lease to allow for flexibility and agility for growth,” he explained. “That allows us to go in and lease a square footage that’s applicable for the first couple of years and allows us to settle in and build the customer base and grow from there.”

Netherton said another key component of Graybar’s branch expansion campaign is its SAP ERP system, which simplifies the process of adding new branch locations. “Because of the platform that SAP provides, it’s very easy to create new branch locations within the master host system to support outlying locations,” he says. “It allows us to be operational in a new location almost overnight.”

A Graybar news release on the newest branches said the company plans to announce additional expansions and openings in the coming months. No details on the location of other branches are available.