Canadian Electrical Wholesaler

Mar 27, 2020

David GordonBy David Gordon

We’ve gone from looking at the coronavirus from afar to being in the middle of the coronavirus storm. It’s obviously changed the business and outlook for the year. While tragic, and disruptive, the phrase “this to shall pass” should be kept in mind.

Some thoughts regarding doing business in the coronavirus era:

1. Take care of your people.  If they are concerned about family, they are less focused on business. If they feel you are not concerned about them, or their family, their commitment and loyalty to the business diminishes.

2. Clean, clean and re-clean.  Yes, you’ve heard it and hopefully you’re practicing it and preaching it. Some distributors have told us that they are also spraying incoming orders with Lysol and then waiting to put the material away. Others have staff wearing gloves, and changing them frequently. Drivers need to be stocked with gloves, sanitizers and wipe everything down regularly.

3. Warehouse staff are critical.  While many others can work remotely, warehouse personnel and drivers are the lifeblood of your cash cycle.  If material can’t get put on the shelves and then taken off to be put into trucks, or customer vehicles, business stops. Consider how to support them. Consider how you to increase capacity in case someone gets sick, someone needs time off due to family needs, needs a break, etc… Perhaps Amazon and grocer’s plans of adding some staff may make sense.  A little extra capacity could be helpful … or identify some of those “remote” workers who can transition to the warehouse.

4. Consider additional delivery services you can offer.

◦ Distributors are providing “curbside pick-up” / “curbside delivery.”
◦ Distributors are having customers call, email or text orders and are bringing material to the truck
◦ Some companies offer overnight delivery / early am delivery as a standard, some are promoting it.
◦ Some distributors delivery to lockers or remote facilities.
◦ If you have job-site trailers you use for contractors, how could these be deployed to support key customers or geographic areas.
◦ Social distancing is changing delivery confirmation processes. No longer handing over a clipboard / keyboard for a signature. Considering taking a photo with a time stamp or an alternative documentation method.

5. Communicate, communicate, communicate.  Sales has always been a sub-segment of marketing as it was the human delivery of messaging.  Now salespeople are remote telemarketers. Make sure they are “smiling and dialing” to keep in touch with customers … and multiple contacts within each customer. This is the value of relationships.

◦ And remember those “compensation justification” accounts that every salesperson has? The accounts that they receive sales credit for but rarely call on? With reduced windshield time, perhaps calls, or at least emails, could be made / sent to these accounts. Let them know your 1) concerned, 2) open and 3) available to help them.
◦ Companies are “pivoting” in the new environment as they expect the “new” business environment to be for an extended time period.  Online training sessions becoming “norm” which requires presentation development, invitations and reminders as well as coordination of multiple presenters from multiple locations (home) and training presenters on retaining engagement (rather than “listeners” doing email!)

6. Credit Check – with a fluid work environment and job-sites in some markets being shut down, as much as we hate to say it, but check the DSO’s of your customers. Many contractors work on a cash flow basis.  No cash coming in means no supplier payments going out. Be cautious, but at the same time recognize that these are customers you will want to do business with later. And the same goes for manufacturers with distributors.

7. Automate – use this opportunity to utilize the automation tools that you have as well as promote the tools that you have.

◦ Able to take online orders, promote it.
▪ And if you don’t have a commerce-enabled website, we know of a source that can launch an eCatalog with thousands of SKUs for distributors in days, enabling you to offer self-service / a new resource to your customers (call for details)
◦ Offer a text ordering service, promote it (or allocate a phone and promote that text number!).
◦ Utilize eMarketing tools creatively to share information (and be creative through promotions, top 10 lists, business updates, etc).
◦ Consider short videos, even “homemade” to share product installation tips / product benefits
◦ Consider deployment of a sales engagement platform to support your salespeople (and populate it with manufacturer contact (take a look at Klyck).
◦ If you have a CRM tool, conduct a sales refresher. Without the ability to “walk around” and share an update, populating CRM with the appropriate information may be more important than ever … as a way to communicate from outside to inside sales and vice versa.
◦ Consider setting up private LinkedIn or Facebook groups to keep customers informed and to share “community” information.
◦ And utilize any “back office” automation tools to their maximum capabilities … EDI, VMI, etc.

8. Personalize / “Communitize” – Similar to natural disasters and terrorist events, we’ll get through this but it will take “a community”.  Consider how to “give back.” Distribution is a local business. How can you support your community? How can you support your customers (especially smaller, independent contractors?)

◦ Support local businesses – Given that many states have mandated that restaurants cannot serve in-dining guests, restaurants are suffering.  To support local businesses, and if you can afford it, perhaps considering supporting local restaurants. For example, DoorDash has added 100,000 independent restaurants to DashPass—our subscription program which offers $0 delivery fees for customers—for free to help them generate higher sales while offering more selection to DashPass members.

We’ve had calls asking about our “crystal ball”, which, like everyone’s is cloudy given daily announcement and a changing market. The two things we do know is 1) it will take some time and 2) the future, at some point, will brighten.

While now is the time to “button down the hatches”, it can also be the time to do some planning and/or address things you’ve put off. Priorities get rearranged and what was planned (i.e. counter days) is not going to happen, so how can that time be redeployed.  As we get into a rhythm of working remotely, there will be opportunities to utilize “down time” differently. We know, coronavirus won’t win.

And remember, in times of crises there will also be opportunities to improve the future.  We’ll touch on some of these in future posts.

Let us know your thoughts and what is happening in your market.

Stay safe.

David Gordon is President of Channel Marketing Group. Channel Marketing Group develops market share and growth strategies for manufacturers and distributors and develops market research. CMG’s specialty is the electrical industry. He also authors an electrical industry blog, He can be reached at 919-488-8635 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

CEW market research 400By John Kerr

The past nine weeks have been to say the least a challenge across the electrical industry. From agents to suppliers, from end users to the electrical channel, all have been affected, all have been forced to think differently and all have begun the journey to retooling the way we operate.

This is the third report in our series quantifying and exploring how electrical wholesalers have had to adapt and how they are looking to find a way forward. For this we have taken a different approach from our previous reports in that we have incorporated the results from our recent survey alongside personal interviews and discussions with electrical distributor teams across Canada

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arkest Before the Dawn, Part 2

CEW 9 JK Figure 1 700By John Kerr

I spoke in my previous article about my father’s quote darkest before the dawn. Well, he had another saying clearly brought forward by his growing up in the depression. He would say, “Money is not everything. It just helps,” and at a time like this when there are so many storylines of effort above and beyond the call, and so many initiatives underway by electrical distributors, there will be a rallying right across the country. The electrical distributors are moving, reacting, and more adaptable than ever before. 

The current situation we find ourselves in is to say the least fluid, dynamic and somewhat disconcerting for many, but underlying it is a focused, disciplined approach to addressing the new norm and new reality. Some branches remain closed, some open with minimal staff, and others rotating staff and working differently than ever before.

Recent public reports by Wesco and Rexel have indicated drops approaching 23% through mid April and clearly ones that demonstrated a slowdown from mid March. Our discussions with both distributors and end users/contractors alike confirm their buying and purchasing activity were curtailed more aggressively in early April.

Over 106 electrical distributors responded to our recent survey with 73% from corporate and branch management. 

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Gurvinder ChopraBy Gurvinder Chopra

This June, Canadians will commemorate Electrical Safety Month; June also marks the fourth month of the COVID-19 pandemic national lockdown. For many Canadians, working from home has become the new normal. As confinement continues, the demand for constant power feed to connect to the world we now live, work, and play in at home has grown substantially. Homes are being equipped with new technologies that offer plenty of benefits, but they also place high demand on electrical systems at home, potentially causing serious safety risks. 

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David GordonBy David Gordon

In talking with distributors and manufacturers it is clear that many are actively in the planning and pivoting mode, moving from survivability to thriveability. They’ve stabilized their business financially, emotionally (from a staff viewpoint) and operationally. Now they are looking at “doing business,” and more financially secure ones are identifying ways to take share.

This doesn’t mean that others are not planning and pivoting. Some didn’t miss a beat; others typically don’t do much planning and live in the moment. 

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Building Permits - MarchThe total value of building permits issued by Canadian municipalities decreased 13.2% to $7.4 billion in March, with declines reported in seven provinces and two territories. The $1.1 billion national decrease was the largest since August 2014. This reflected notable drops in Ontario (-12.9%), Quebec (-18.1%) and British Columbia (-19.4%), which coincided with efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19.

 Value of residential permits down

The total value of residential permits decreased 13.1% to $4.6 billion in March.

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EIN evolve 400As we continue to respond to the changing status with the COVID-19 outbreak, EFC is taking preventative measures to protect conference delegates from any further risks associated with this virus. After much consideration and consultation, the EFC Board has decided to cancel EFC’s Industry Conference in Banff which was rescheduled from late May to September 1 - 3, 2020. This decision was difficult but necessary for the safety of our members, employees, and the community.

One of EFC's key mandates, is to deliver a premier national thought-leadership conference for industry members, partners, and affiliates. 

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Among new solutions introduced by Sonepar: customers can now create an online account through a simple text message. Traffic on Sonepar’s website has tripled since the pandemic began, and the number of new accounts has doubled. Many Sonepar locations also feature curbside pick-up.

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Schneider ElectricThe Continental Automated Buildings Association (CABA) is pleased to announce the appointment of Hugo Lafontaine, Vice-President Digital Energy at Schneider Electric Canada. CABA is an international nonprofit industry association that provides information, education and networking to help promote advanced technologies for the automation of homes and buildings.

“We are delighted to welcome Hugo Lafontaine to CABA's Board,” said Ron Zimmer, CABA President & CEO “He brings a stellar background in building systems integration and the building automation market, and a wealth of insight into the digital platforms and solutions that will define smart-building innovations now and into the future.”

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Harold HayesHarold Hayes, a stalwart of the electrical industry, passed away peacefully in Scarborough, Ontario at the age of 90 on May 9, 2020.

Harold joined the industry as an apprentice at age 18, working first for his father’s business, Power Cable Installations, and then for Comstock. Among his later accomplishments, he formed Federal Pioneer Electric’s electric heating division, served as president of the Ontario Electric League in 1985, and while in his 80s consulted for Intellimeter Canada Inc.



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Although she initially pursued a career in outdoor education, Sarah was instrumental in the company’s expansion into architectural lighting and the U.S. market. She joined Liteline as a project manager in between stints working in outdoor education. Now she leads Liteline’s U.S. distribution arm and marketing department.


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