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October 17, 2016 

By John Kerr

With the recent publishing of our annual Pathfinder Report we get a perspective few have of the industry. Annually this journey allows us many touch points on the market and a view of the evolving sources of supply few others see. They say there is nothing as constant as change, but what are you and your teams doing to address it?

With increasing competition coming at the full-line channel model from a myriad of directions, many electrical wholesalers in Canada are for the first time taking stock of who and what they must deal with in the future.

Traditional full-line models are being attacked by new specialty and focused hybrid type distributors that offer technical expertise and more often than not newer brands as well as those familiar to us here in Canada. The full-line model no longer holds its dominant position that once approached 80%. 

While the lighting market rolls along and has most recently bloated line cards significantly, other segments like wire and control continue to roll along with more aggressive stances than before.

The control segment is a huge market and its crossover between industrial and commercial allow it a nice foundation to roll more easily with shifts from industrial to commercial, for example.

The wire distribution model is being stood on its head as Anixter appears headed to attack the full-line model as it increases its product offering to its unique client base.

Electrical wholesalers in Canada have been a bit slow to get off the mark as well in their collective approach to adopting the Internet and online offerings. Realizing this is an important initiative, many have spent considerably in establishing these sites, only to fall victim to a marketing approach used to communicate to who they know and not to who they don’t. What many forget is they are now able to attract new types of customers from a wider geography that wasn’t previously available. More importantly, they are able to compete and attract customers they did not know.

The total available electrical market here is approaching $10 billion, and never before have there been so many companies competing for their piece of this. Control, wire and lighting distributors are in fact building their share.

All this sets the stage for a challenge to building your war room and a more detailed competitive and marketing analysis. 

Here are a few questions for you to ask and challenge your company.

1.     Have we really looked at our competitive landscape?

2.     Have we assessed the speciality, lighting, control, utility and wire and others who live in our current territory as to location, size, employee make-up (technical versus sales), etc.

3.     Have we done an audit of the customer base that may be being served by these competitors like panel shops, motor rewind, control and OEM? 

4.     Have we researched the system integrators market in our area?

5.     Have we looked at how to leverage our Internet and or online investments to better serve existing clients and more importantly gain new clients?

6.     What are we doing with our marketing mix?

7.     Have we been selling our own brand effectively?

8.     Do we have the market intelligence to confirm our assumptions?

9.     Do we have a set of benchmarks we benchmark to?

10.   How old is our customer research and market intelligence, and do we have a solid grasp on the total market available to us?       

 John Kerr is Publisher of Electrical Industry News Week. John’s long-standing rapport and knowledge of the electrical market and his commitment to best practices in online publishing drive the electrical industry.ca initiative. His annual Pathfinder report has been the cornerstone of market data for many of the Canadian electrical industries leading companies; This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..