Shaped by a long-range vision
Our history has been shaped by the long-range vision of our shareholders and executives.
We have achieved lasting growth by meeting our customers’ needs—for strong relationships, innovative services, assistance abroad and more.
We are only as successful as our people are. Day after day, their ideas and their drive are what sets us apart.
"What counts is what lasts.”
- Henri Coisne, Founder and Honorary Chairman of the Corporate Board
“And to last, we need to adapt.”
- Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Sonepar Chairman; Chairman and CEO of Colam Entreprendre
Sonepar's history at a glance
The birth of the Group and the "French" years
In 1969, Sonepar enters the electrical equipment business, then continues its development in France through several acquisitions.
Expansion through Western Europe and first jump across the Atlantic
Entering the Netherlands, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Switzerland. The Group hits $1 billion in annual revenue and expands in Canada.
Substancial growth through acquisitions across Europe and America
Sonepar opens in the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the USA. Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette becomes Chairman.
Going global with moves into the far East and emerging markets
Sonepar moves into China, Brazil and expands in APAC, Europe and North America. The Group hits €10 billion in annual revenue.
Sonepar leads the field as the number one global B2B distributor of electrical products
Sonepar becomes market leader in the USA and significantly expands in South America. In 2020, Sonepar has sales of €23 billion.
Sonepar's history in details
1969-1979: THE BIRTH OF THE GROUP AND THE “FRENCH” YEARS
In 1969, Sonepar is founded when the Coisne and Lambert families acquire “le Comptoir d’Electricité Franco-Belge”.
Sonepar sells to professionals, not individual consumers.
This means that growth can be achieved only through building long-term human relationships.
It is a people business – and that is a domain Henri understand.
Sonepar adopts a strategy of acquiring other French regional distributors.
In 1971, Sonepar would acquire Socolec, a regional distributor in le Mans, in northwestern France, adding Comptoir Lyonnais d'Electricité, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region the following year.
Next come Sanélec in St-Quentin in the north and later French companies Teissier and Groupe Tabur in 1978.
Sonepar’s acquisition strategy
Sonepar’s strategy is ambitious but is also firmly rooted in respecting the local nature of the distribution business.
Key to success is the decision to allow the companies it acquired to keep their management and a great deal of autonomy: they are the specialists in their markets and Sonepar values and respects this local knowledge.
1980-1989: EXPANSION THROUGH WESTERN EUROPE AND THE FIRST JUMP ACROSS THE ATLANTIC
By the end of the 1970s, Sonepar had consolidated its position as a rising star in France. It is now time to look for the right opportunity to expand abroad.
In 1982 Sonepar acquires Otra who has two entities: the Dutch electrical distribution company Technische Unie, and the German firm Otto Kuhmann.
Otra, like Sonepar, is a family-owned business, though its history stretched back to 1880.
Otra has then a similar level of revenues but employs many more people than Sonepar.
It was much more than a step for Sonepar – it was a leap forward.
Sonepar expands to Canada in 1984, with the acquisition of Lumen - the leading distributor of electric and automation material in Quebec.
Its products and services are designed for the following sectors: commercial, residential, industrial, OEM, institutional, municipal and mining.
In 1988, Sonepar arrives in Italy and Switzerland.
The St. Gall branch of Swiss subsidiary Winterhalter + Fenner AG is pictured on the right.
1990-1999: SUBSTANCIAL GROWTH THROUGH ACQUISITIONS ACROSS EUROPE AND AMERICA
Sonepar opens in the Czech Republic and Finland, then Norway, Poland and Sweden the following years.
In 1998 Sonepar makes its first move in the world’s largest economy, the USA.
The year that Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, daughter of the founder Henri Coisne, becomes the first Chairwoman of the Group, Sonepar closes a deal to purchase Massachusetts-based electrical supply company Eagle Electric (now NorthEast Electrical).
The pace was set for rapid expansion in the USA with New Jersey’s Cooper Electric Supply added to the family the following year, and another brand, World Electric Supply, located in Florida.
Just one year later, Capital Tristate, Brook Electrical Supply and Viking joined the fold.
2000-2009: GOING GLOBAL WITH MOVES IN ASIA AND EMERGING MARKETS
US expansion continues with the acquisition of Eoff in 2002.
By 2004, revenue from its US companies had already reached $1bn. But Sonepar’s strategy for expansion – tying local experience to global vision – is just getting started.
The Group adds Irby in 2005, Friedman Electric the following year, and Crawford in 2007.
Sonepar enters the Asian market in 2000 — most existing electrical distributors in Asia were small, family-owned businesses set up by entrepreneurs.
Sonepar can acquire the business but maintain all the local knowhow and knowledge of the founding family.
This was precisely what happened with Sonepar’s first Asian partnership: Hong Kong electrical distributors Supermoon.
Supermoon was, like Sonepar, a family-owned company, which had been founded by the Mok family in 1985.
In 2006 Sonepar moved into Mainland China, when it formed a joint venture with Shanghai electrical distribution company Hite Electric.
In 2008, Sonepar and Rexel’s acquisition of the global Group Hagemeyer also expanded Sonepar’s presence in Asia-Pacific, North America and Latin America.
With the purchase came operations in new countries like Australia with the addition of Lawrence & Hanson and its specialist businesses Pacific Datacom, Specialized Lighting Solutions and Solar + Solutions and the Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand part of operations of what is now Vallen.
In the same year, 2008, it struck a deal to partner with the market leader in electrical distribution in Malaysia—KVC and its subsidiaries.
2010-2019: SONEPAR LEADS THE FIELD AS THE NUMBER ONE GLOBAL DISTRIBUTOR OF ELECTRICAL PRODUCTS
In parallel, the Group was still working on acquisitions, and successfully welcomed WitJoint Automation in Shanghai in 2011, DEP in Thailand in 2012 and entered New Zealand with the acquisition of Corys Electrical, also in 2012.
In total, between 2010 and 2015, 21 companies and their teams joined Sonepar in the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2015, Sonepar acquires all Rexel activities in South America, including Nortel and ETIL (Brazil), Electra and Flores Y kersting (Chile), and Dirome, V&F and AMP (Peru).
Sonepar celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2019.
The same year, Sonepar acquires North Coast Electric in the US, which expands its coverage and strengthens its ability to provide excellent service and solutions to customers and business partners in the Pacific Northwest region.
In 2021 Sonepar enters into an agreement to acquire Springfield Electric Supply Company, Illinois expanding its presence in the US.
This acquisition offers Sonepar a very solid platform for growth and expansion in a part of the USA where the Group is not currently present.
A family-owned business headquartered in Springfield, Illinois since 1912, Springfield Electric offers a full line of products and services to electrical contractor and commercial accounts.
Through a dense network of 100 brands spanning 40 countries, the Group has an ambitious transformation agenda to become the first global B-to-B electrical distributor to provide a fully digitalized and synchronized omnichannel experience to all customers.
Drawing on the skill and passion of its 45,000 associates, Sonepar had sales of €23 billion in 2020. Sonepar makes its customers’ lives easier, over the counter, visiting customers, by phone or online, – however we’re needed.