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EW's Top 100 in 1970

March 29, 2015
The Way We Were

This being Electrical Wholesaling's 95th Anniversary Year, I thought we could all learn something about mergers and acquisitions in our industry by taking a look back at EW’s first-ever listing of the electrical market’s largest distributors. That first list, published in 1970, had 100 distributors ranking them by number of employees, because sales volume was unavailable for so many of the companies. Following are a few things I learned from that first listing.

The national chains were already giants back then.  The national and large chains really stood out on EW’s Top 100 in 1970 because only three companies had more than 100 locations, a handful had more than 20 branches, and a whole lot of companies of the companies listed had less than five locations.  The big dogs back then were Graybar, with 150-plus branches; the 167-location General Electric Supply Co. (GESCO), which became GE Supply and was acquired by Rexel in 2006; and Westinghouse Electric Supply Co. (WESCO), which had 180 locations and back then was a division of Westinghouse Electric Co. before being spun off in 1994 and eventually became WESCO Distribution International.

Back then, Consolidated Electrical Distributors (CED), Irving, Texas, was ranked as the fifth largest distributor with 60 locations, and neither Sonepar nor Rexel had yet made a purchase in the United States. Ranked #6 on the EW top 100 list, Crescent Electric Supply, East Dubuque, Ill., has also seen dramatic growth, increasing its branch network from 29 locations to 140 branches and its employee count from 520 to 1,700. Another big player back in those days was Tujax Industries, Jersey City, N.J., which had 1,000 employees, 25 locations and 1969 revenues of approximately $80 million. It went bankrupt several decades ago.

Fast-forward 45 years. Today Graybar’s sales have increased from $770.8 million (1969 revenues) to $5.66 billion (2013 revenues) and the company has added over 100 branches and now has 261 North American locations and 7,529 employees. WESCO didn’t release its sales or employee counts for that 1970 listing but it has added 250 branches since then. Over the past 45 years, CED has added an estimated 540 branches – mostly through acquisition, and has grown from a 700-employee company to one with an estimated 6,200 employees.

A relative handful of companies from the 1970 Top 100 are still operating under the same name.  Once you get past Graybar, WESCO, CED and Crescent, only 17 other companies that were on that first Top 100 listing haven’t been acquired (see below).  
Click here to view a PDF of that first listing.


The following electrical distributors were on EW’s Top 100 ranking in 1970 and are still operating under the same name 45 years later (listed in order of rank from that listing).

Graybar Electric Co.

WESCO International Inc.

Consolidated Electrical

Distributors Inc. (CED)

Crescent Electric Supply 

Electrical Equipment Co.

Rumsey Electric Co.

Harry Cooper Supply

Madison Electric Co.

Dealers Electric Supply Co.

McNaughton-McKay Electric

Johnson Electric Supply Co.

Mayer Electric Supply Co. Steiner Electric Co.

Griffith Electric Supply Co.

John A. Becker Co.

Meletio Electric Supply Co.

Scott Electric Co.

F.D. Lawrence Electric Co. 

West Virginia Electric

Dakota Electric Supply

Hunzicker Brothers