Over 50 Years Of Solid Growth
Founded in 1969, the journey to its position today – as the world's leading B2B distributor of electrical products, solutions, and related services – has seen several key phases.
Shaped by a long-term vision
Our history has been shaped by a carefully thought out, long-range vision shared by our shareholders and executives.
We achieve sustainable growth by meeting our customers’ needs.
We’re only as successful as our people. Day after day, it’s their ideas and drive that 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, Permanent representative of Colam Entreprendre, Sonepar Chairman
Sonepar’s history at a glance
1969-1979: The group’s birth and the "French” years
- In 1969, Sonepar enters the electrical equipment business.
- It continues to grow in France through a series of acquisitions.
Sonepar is founded in 1969 with the Coisne and Lambert families’ acquisition of “le Comptoir d’Electricité Franco-Belge.”
Sonepar sells to professionals, not individual consumers. This means that growth has to be achieved through building long-term customer relationships. The Group is in the people business – a domain that Henri Coisne understands well.
Sonepar adopts a strategy of acquiring other French regional distributors. In 1971, it purchases Socolec, a regional distributor in le Mans, in northwestern France. It adds Comptoir Lyonnais d'Electricité, in the Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes region the following year. These are followed by the purchase of Sanélec in St-Quentin in the north, and later Teissier and Groupe Tabur in 1978.
Sonepar’s strategy is ambitious but also very firmly rooted in recognizing the importance of local relationships in the distribution business. Key to success is the decision to allow the companies it acquires to retain their management and a high degree of autonomy. Sonepar believes that the company’s management and associates are the specialists in their markets – and it values and respects this local knowledge.
1980-1989: Expansion through Western Europe and the first jump across the Atlantic
- Sonepar enters Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands, Italy, and Switzerland.
- Annual revenue reaches US$1bn and the group expands into Canada.
By the end of the 1970s, Sonepar has consolidated its position as a rising star in France. It now turns its attention to opportunities to expand abroad.
In 1982, Sonepar acquires Otra, which has two distinct entities: the Dutch electrical distribution company Technische Unie, and the German firm Otto Kuhmann.
Like Sonepar, Otra is a family-owned business, although its history stretches as far back as 1880. Otra’s revenue is similar to Sonepar but it employs many more people. The acquisition represents more than a next step for Sonepar – it’s a leap forward.
In 1984, Sonepar moves beyond Europe, expanding into Canada with the acquisition of Lumen - the leading distributor of electric and automation materials in Quebec. Its products and services are designed for the commercial, residential, industrial, OEM, institutional, municipal, and mining sectors.
In 1988, Sonepar expands into Italy and Switzerland.
1990-1999: A phase of substantial growth, through acquisitions across Europe and the US
- Sonepar starts to operate in the Czech Republic, Finland, Norway, Poland, Sweden and the US.
- Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette becomes Chairman.
In 1998 Sonepar makes its first move in the world’s largest economy, the USA. In 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 scene is now set for rapid expansion in the US. New Jersey’s Cooper Electric Supply and Florida’s World Electric Supply join the Group in 1999. Just a year later, Capital Tristate, Brook Electrical Supply, and Viking join the family too.
Sonepar expands into the Czech Republic and Finland; then Norway, Poland, and Sweden soon after.
2000-2009: Going global with moves into the far East and emerging markets
- Sonepar moves into China and Brazil, and expands in the Asia Pacific, Europe, and North America.
- Annual revenue passes the €10bn milestone.
US expansion continues with the acquisition of Eoff in 2002. By 2004, revenue from Sonepar companies in the US has reached US$1bn. But Sonepar’s strategy for expansion – a skillful blend of local experience and a bold global vision – is only just getting started. In 2005, the Group adds Irby, with Friedman Electric joining the following year, and Crawford in 2007.
In 2000, Sonepar enters the Asian market, where electrical distributors tend to be small, family-owned businesses founded by entrepreneurs. The context is a perfect fit to Sonepar’s strategy of acquiring and growing businesses while carefully retaining local knowhow and founder knowledge. Sonepar’s first Asian partnership illustrates this well. Hong Kong electrical distributor Supermoon was founded in 1985, and, like Sonepar, is family owned.
In 2006, Sonepar branches out into Mainland China, forming a joint venture with Shanghai electrical distribution company Hite Electric.
In 2008, Sonepar acquires part of Hagemeyer, expanding its presence in the Asia-Pacific, North America, and South America. In Australia, with the addition of Lawrence & Hanson and its specialist businesses Pacific Datacom, Specialized Lighting Solutions, and Solar + Solutions, and operations in Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, now Vallen Asia.
In the same year, Sonepar strikes a deal to partner with Malaysia’s electrical distribution market leader, KVC, and its subsidiaries.
2010-2019: Sonepar expands further and celebrates its 50th anniversary
- The Group becomes the market leader in the US and grows significantly in South America.
- 2019 marks Sonepar's 50th anniversary.
The Group continues to pursue acquisitions, successfully welcoming Shanghai-based WitJoint Automation in 2011 and Thailand’s DEP in in 2012. In the same year Sonepar enters New Zealand with the acquisition of Corys Electrical. Between 2010 and 2015, a total of 21 companies and their teams join Sonepar across the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2015, Sonepar acquires all Rexel’s operations in South America, including Nortel and ETIL in Brazil; Electra and Flores Y kersting in Chile; and Dirome, V&F, and AMP in Peru.
In 2019, Sonepar celebrates its 50th anniversary.
That same year, Sonepar acquires North Coast Electric in the US, expanding its coverage and strengthening its capabilities in the provision of world-class service and solutions to customers and business partners in the Pacific Northwest.
2020-Present: Global market leadership in the B2B distribution of electrical products
- In 2021, Sonepar achieves sales of €26,4bn.
- On the same year, it launches a new brand identity.
- A number of strategic acquisitions are closed.
In 2021 Sonepar strikes a deal to acquire the Illinois-based Springfield Electric Supply Company.
The purchase gives Sonepar a solid platform for growth and expansion into a new part of the US.
The company is family owned, has been headquartered in Springfield, Illinois since 1912, and 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 be the first global B2B 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 €26,4 billion in 2021.
Sonepar makes its customers’ lives easier, whether that’s over the counter, at customer sites, by phone, or online.
Sonepar is an independent family-owned company with global market leadership in B-to-B distribution of electrical products, solutions and related services.
As a trusted partner to electrical equipment makers, Sonepar makes life easier for its customers by selecting and distributing a wide range of products and solutions.