The global distributor of electrical supplies surpassed $2.4 billion in digital sales last year, accounting for about 16% of total sales, CEO Patrick Berard says.

Global electrical supplies distributor Rexel SA had a good 2018, and especially so in the United States and in digital commerce, CEO Patrick Berard says.

Serving customers with skilled salespeople is a first priority—and the second is strengthening the digital program.
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Patrick Berard, CEO, Rexel SA

The Paris-based company had expressed concerns two years ago that it was facing strong competitive pressures, notably from digital commerce, but things have changed for the better, Berard said last week. “I’m very glad to tell you we have made significant progress, more than 2 billion sales are being traded digitally,” he said on a conference call with investment analysts, according to a transcript from Seeking Alpha. He went on to clarify that Rexel’s digital sales reached 2.1 billion euros (US$2.37 billion) last year, or about 16% of total sales of 13.37 billion euros (US$15.10 billion).

Rexel operates dozens of e-commerce sites throughout North Americ, Europe and Asia-Pacific. Through a network of Rexel-owned online operations including RexelUSA, Gexpro, Platt and Capitol Light in the U.S., Kellihers Electrical in Ireland, JR Turk in Australia and Huazhang Automation in China, it sells a wide range of electrical products ranging from lamps to circuit breaks to electric power transformers to industrial, commercial and residential markets.

In the fourth quarter, it reported its sharpest growth in the United States. It said sales in North America increased 6.9% over 2017 on a “constant, same-day basis,” driven mostly by U.S. sales, compared with slight declines in sales in Europe and Asia-Pacific.

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“In the last 24 months, and even accelerating in the last 12, the U.S. results are significantly better, we are gaining share and we are growing organically,” Berard said.

Investing more in digital

Rexel has been investing to expand its number of available products and to improve its digital channel, and is taking steps to “re-invest in the digital world” while it also works to improve the efficiency of its sales force through more personnel training and sales tools, Berard said. He noted that serving customers with skilled salespeople “is a first priority—and the second is strengthening the digital program.”

In the U.S. market, he added, Rexel gained 3,600 new customers in the last 12 months and recorded “double-digit growth” across seven regions, “notably Denver, California, Texas and Florida.”

In another nod to its strength in multichannel operations, Rexel opened 48 new branches as part of a plan to open 100; the company has also said that its ecommerce sites have helped to drive offline as well as online sales.

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