By Philippe Delpech, CEO of Sonepar

In 2019 Sonepar celebrates its 50th anniversary. It’s a time to capitalize on our great history and to look forward, leveraging our industry’s trends. There are enormous possibilities for growth in front of us, and multiple ways that we can help to solve the world’s most pressing challenges, and contribute to a more sustainable world.


Leveraging electrification growth

The growth for B2B Electrical Distribution is driven by demographics – the world’s population doubled in the last 50 years, and rapid urbanization has seen urban populations triple in the same period, while electric energy has gained market share versus other energies, with electrical energy’s share doubling in the last 50 years.

Today, more than 50% of the world’s population lives in cities, and city dwellers use an average of 70% more electricity than rural customers. At the same time, the demand for electrical components for the building industry, which represents 75% of our revenue, is still increasing. Houses built in the 1960s required 100 electrical components; today, the same house needs 600.

Reducing the carbon footprint of buildings

Prior to the oil crisis of 1976, industry and transportation were the two biggest CO2 generators. Today, the CO2 emissions from buildings are the largest on the planet. The emissions coming from buildings quadrupled in the last 50 years! CO2 reduction objectives agreed during COP meetings will never be achieved if buildings do not become more efficient. Construction is undergoing a major revolution, which will offer a wealth of opportunities to Sonepar in the decades ahead.

Our Group has a central role to play. The products we distribute can improve energy performance throughout a building’s full lifecycle. We need to educate our 20,000 sales representatives and our million customers worldwide to sell and install the most environmentally friendly solutions and services. They will equip a new generation of smart, connected and less energy-hungry buildings, which will offer enhanced comfort to occupants while reducing their carbon footprint. We’re in a great place to offer both advice and the systems that can help our customers create more energy-efficient buildings.


Taking part in the digital revolution

Digitization constitutes another massive opportunity. Sonepar is already well established on the online platforms that are driving the e-commerce market. Electrical B2B Distribution is an omnichannel business where you serve the same customer through various channels depending on their immediate needs.

Sonepar is building the first omnichannel, fully digitalized distributor, making data the centerpiece of our strategy. We are convinced the right blend of synergies between our physical network and our online presence will offer digital natives the multichannel environment they need. This is what Sonepar will build through its network of 2,800 agencies, with locations in 44 countries.


The adventure that lies ahead

At the advent of its 50th anniversary, Sonepar is in a uniquely strong position. The Group is a solid leader in a growing market that will continue to experience structural growth over the coming decades. We have many exciting challenges ahead, from the current huge growth coming from mobility, smart cities and connected devices.

Our new strategic plan, called Impact 2023, will drive the digital transformation of the company, with the aim of both increasing productivity while also amplifying customer satisfaction. Faced with a volatile global economy, we will also channel energy and investment into delivering productivity.

Sonepar has been on an adventure for 50 years, from 11 people sitting around a table in Paris in 1969, to a global team of 46,000 people in 2019. There’s been a lot of learning and a lot of growth in that time, but the future looks even more exciting, as we continue to grow, while helping the world live and build better, more sustainable lives. In many ways, we’ve only just begun. 


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