1965 Span-Can — Seabell Inc. 1984

Looking Back

January 25, 2018

Like many famous people throughout history, Don Hughes had a dream. In 1965 he made that dream a reality by forming the first marketing group of independent electrical wholesalers, and that group was named Span-Canada Electric Limited. Span-Can, as it became known to the trade, was true to its name, as each of the members involved had a specific territory, which in total covered Canada from coast to coast.

During those formative days, Don Hughes spent many hours with the chosen group of 12 unfolding details and ambitions of his dream. The original group of companies involved were

  • Electric Equipment Co. Ltd., Saskatoon
  • Gough & Co. Ltd., Vancouver
  • Harris & Roome Ltd., Halifax
  • M. Hopper Co. Ltd., Saint John
  • Howden’s Electrical Supply, London
  • McLoughlan Supplies Ltd., St. John’s
  • Mitis Ltée, Rimouski
  • The Northern Engineering & Supply Co. Ltd., Fort William
  • A. Robinson Co Ltd., Winnipeg
  • Roy Marchand Ltd., Montreal
  • Ruddy Electric Wholesale Ltd., Oshawa
  • Turgeon & Jobin Ltée, Quebec.

These 12 independent electrical distributing firms collectively had 34 branches across Canada, and gross sales of approximately $35,000,000.

As its founding president, Don Hughes continued to steer the Span-Can organization until his retirement in 1975. The initial concepts that flowed from Don’s dream, along with the input from the original Board of Directors (each of the owners of the 12 member companies) were sound in 1965, were sound in 1975, and continue to be sound today [1984]. Over the years since Hughes’ retirement, Span-Can has continually endeavoured to expand the number of activities it performs for its associated companies, and at the same time improve the role it plays as an extension of its suppliers’ marketing arms. After Hughes left, Span-Can was managed in the late seventies by Jim Dougherty, and has been managed since the turn of the decade by Brian Shea.

Probably one of the more significant aspects of this unique group’s operations is the fact that each of the companies involved has its own specific franchise territory within Canada. This allows each regional marketing organization to operate without having the complexity of several members competing in the same market for a particular piece of business. This somewhat exclusive territory arrangement also allows for open dialogue at company meetings, as the directors see themselves as true partners in this national company, and not as competitors.

Like many other companies in recent years, this organization has gone through a number of changes, including a name change from Span-Can to Seabell Inc. Another has been the establishing of its own consolidation and transportation division wherein it handles much of the merchandise it purchases all the way from supplier factory to Seabell branch warehouse. It has also now entered the computer age and as a consequence can supply the associate companies with a number of performance and monitoring reports for higher degrees of efficiency and profitability.

“When you look at what Seabell Inc. does for its suppliers other than a substantial gross sales figure, it must be noted that all purchases made by Seabell Inc. are the financial responsibility of Seabell Inc. This security has always been well received by suppliers as it has real meaning for them”

The 10 associate companies in Seabell Inc. [in 1984] were

  • Dubo Ltée, Montreal
  • EECOL Electric Ltd., Calgary
  • Harris & Roome Supply Company, and Gescan Atlantc Limited, Halifax
  • Maska Electrique Ltée, St-Hyacinthe
  • McLoughlan Supplies Ltd., St. John’s
  • The Northern Engineering & Supply Co. Limited, Thunder Bay
  • Robertson Electric Wholesale, Rexdale
  • A. Robinson Co. Ltd, Winnipeg
  • Ruddy Electric Wholesale Co., Limited, Oshawa;
  • Turgeon & Jobin Ltée, Quebec.

Through a network of 54 branches, Seabell continually strives to represent high quality products which are produces by leading manufacturers with forward thinking management. In turn, Seabell offers its suppliers distribution in all the major markets from coast to coast in Canada.

There have been frequent applications from companies to join Seabell and such applications are always given proper consideration, particularly in light of present coverage in the market involved. Marketing locations are continually being assessed to ensure the best coverage for our suppliers and ourselves. In recent years acquisitions from within have consolidated the group, while acquisitions of outside firms by associate companies have contributed to growth.

By closely monitoring all aspects of their operation, Seabell has come through the recent recession without having suffered any casualties, and is now in an optimistic frame of mind about its future.

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