2004's TOP 200

June 1, 2004
After a couple of shaky sales years for the electrical industry's 200 largest electrical distributors, 2003 proved to be a stabilizing year. Those electrical

Click here for the 2005 Top 200 List (company and headquarters only).

The complete listing, which includes individual company revenues, number of employees and locations, can be purchased on EW's Resources Page.

After a couple of shaky sales years for the electrical industry's 200 largest electrical distributors, 2003 proved to be a stabilizing year. Those electrical distributors that reported sales volume for both 2002 and 2003 increased annual sales an average of 1.8 percent, bringing total sales for the Top 200 up to an estimated $35.2 billion for 2003.

After two year of decreased sales volume, 1.8 percent growth sounds pretty good. Of course, 1.8 percent is just the average. The increases and decreases among Top 200 electrical distributors span a wide gap. When looking at individual wholesalers' actual sales, revenues were down as much as 22 percent and up as much as 57 percent.

A better gauge of the electrical industry's health might be obtained by looking at the number of Top 200 electrical distributors reporting increases, decreases and flat sales. Among the electrical distributors on the Top 200 list that provided a sales number for both 2002 and 2003, 67 percent reported a sales increase, 25 percent reported a decrease, and 8 percent reported flat sales.

Those statistics reflect a growth trend when comparing them with the previous two years' stats. For 2002, 45 percent of the respondents saw an increase in sales, 50 percent saw a decrease, and 5 percent reported flat sales. For 2001, the results were even more dismal with only 35 percent reporting a sales increase, 56 percent reporting decreased sales, and 9 percent reporting flat sales.

Among distributors with banner sales growth in 2003, The Reynolds Co., Dallas, led the pack with a whopping 57 percent increase, propelling the company up the chart to No. 27 from last year's spot at No. 34. The Reynolds Co. has grown significantly the last few years through its acquisition of eight Warren Electric branches as well as by consolidating existing branches and opening others in new Louisiana and Texas markets. For 2004, executives at The Reynolds Co. forecast a 10 percent increase in sales.

Two other southwest electrical distributors join The Reynolds Co. in leapfrogging up the chart. Summit Electric Supply Co. Inc., Albuquerque, N.M., jumps to No. 25 from No. 31, with a 40 percent increase in sales; and Crawford Electric Supply Co. (CESCO), with headquarters in Dallas, bounds from No. 62 to No. 51, with a 33 percent sales jump. For both distributors, the sales jumps can be attributed to moves into new geographic markets.

Summit acquired 12 of Warren Electric's branches in December 2002; CESCO became a two-branch distributor in January 2002 when it added a Houston branch. This year, CESCO added a third location with its acquisition of Cain Electric Supply's Fort Worth branch. For 2004, CESCO looks to grow sales another 25 percent, according to Craig Levering, chief executive officer.

Levering isn't alone in his call for continued growth. Many of the executives who responded to the Top 200 survey are forecasting boosts in company sales for 2004.

“In 2004, we are seeing ‘broad based’ improvement in our customer's business activity, which appears sustainable throughout the foreseeable future,” wrote one respondent in the Northeast.

Another electrical distributor in the Northeast reports “consistent growth in medium-size construction projects.”

Windy City Wire, a low-voltage wire specialist with headquarters near Chicago, opened more than 1,600 new accounts for the second straight year in 2003, growing sales by 11 percent. “For 2004, we expect big-year sales growth of about 30 percent,” said Windy City's owner, Rich Galgano.

Other distributors say 2004 sales growth will be fueled by the recovering economy as well as by growing market share, through acquisition, by opening new branches and through operational improvements. More than one distributor executive indicated some of an upsurge would be due to steel and commodity price increases, which will be passed on to customers.

For 2003, distributors that saw annual sales slide cited reasons that included: the poor economy, the United States' loss of industrial customer base, the international recession and devaluation of currency, and lack of commercial construction.

For Noland Co., Newport News, Va., electrical sales fell 20 percent in 2003 after a decrease of 13 percent in 2002. The slide was planned, though. Noland downsized its electrical/industrial operations, which account for 12 percent of its total sales, by terminating several unprofitable integrated supply accounts in 2002. Noland expects to increase electrical sales in 2004 if the economic recovery continues.

Electrical Equipment Co., Raleigh, N.C., also saw electrical sales fall in 2003, with an 8 percent decrease. “The primary source of weakness in the company's performance in 2003 was the continuing weakness in the telecommunications industry, a key focus for us,” said Harry Albert Jr., controller for Electrical Equipment Co. “Coupled with the overall weakness in the industrial economy … we had to redouble our efforts to focus on sales discipline, growing our share of current customer business, and on improving efficiency and profitability.”

Steven Engineering, an OEM distributor with one location in South San Francisco, experienced a relatively flat year in 2003 with a sales increase of 1.6 percent.

“Due to the extremely high cost of operation in California, we have seen a mass exodus of manufacturers to other states and China,” said Kenneth Walter, president of Steven Engineering. “Though we continue to gain market share, our sales remain the same because of business being lost due to relocation of customers.”

For 2004, Walter anticipates a minimum growth of 35 percent, thanks to the present turnaround in the semiconductor industry.

Based on 2003 total electrical sales estimates of $73.96 billion, the Top 200 electrical wholesalers command 48 percent of the industry's available market share.

The Top 200 electrical distributors employ an estimated 76,779 people at approximately 4,427 locations. Those numbers are both up from 2002 estimates of 76,751 employees and 4,380 locations. (See Quick Stats chart on page 17.)

Based on the distributors that furnished both a sales volume and an employee count for the current list, the average sales per employee came in at $469,536, which is down slightly from last year's $472,167. When looking at the median sales per employee, the number comes in at $435,417.

Market share of the electrical industry's four full-line national chains — Graybar Electric, WESCO, Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED) and GE Supply — didn't change dramatically. With combined 2003 sales of $11.9 billion, their collective market share is 16.1 percent compared with 16.9 percent for 2002. That makes two years in a row the four national chains have lost market share. From 1995 through 2001, the four chains steadily grew market share, peaking in 2001 with 18 percent. (See graphic on page 22.)

Although merger and acquisition activity has definitely slowed, two electrical distributors appearing on the current list have been acquired in 2004. Mayer Electric Supply Co. Inc., Birmingham, Ala., acquired Maddux Supply Co., Greensboro, N.C., in February. Crescent Electric Supply Co., East Dubuque, Ill., acquired Peerless Electric Supply, Indianapolis, in January.

Other Top 200 distributors have made big acquisitions in 2003 and 2004 as well. Please see the acquisition chart on page 22 for more information on consolidations.

At least 15 single-location distributors filled spots on the Top 200 this year, with NEDCO Supply, Las Vegas, at the top in regard to annual revenues.

To qualify for a spot on the Top 200 list, a distributor had to have electrical wholesale product sales of at least $25 million in 2003 — up $1 million from last year's cut-off of $24 million.

Qualified revenues include sales of products a typical electrical distributor handles, such as electronic wire and cable, pole-line hardware and utility products, lighting fixtures sold at retail in a lighting showroom, high-tech and factory automation products, and voice/data communications products. It does not include revenues from motor repair, plumbing supplies, etc.

To place a firm on the list, Electrical Wholesaling sent more than 500 surveys to electrical distributors believed to have annual electrical sales in excess of $20 million. Top 200 distributors are ranked by sales volume insofar as possible. If an electrical distributor does not provide sales data, we estimate sales based on Dun and Bradstreet's Million Dollar Database as well as our own data.


Specialty distributors once again dominate the list of the Top 25 electrical distributors as ranked by sales per employee. For the third consecutive year, Western United Electric Supply Corp., Brighton, Colo., takes the No. 1 slot. With one location and 23 employees who cater to electric utility companies, Western United Electric Supply tops the list with sales per employee at $2,313,043.

The companies ranked here are those that provided both a 2003 sales number and employee count for publication in the Top 200 listing.

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