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.

From cotton thread to electric wires

Five years after setting up a weaving business in Armentières, in northern France, Henri Coisne, a farmer’s son, and Léopold Lambert, a Belgian merchant, founded the company Coisne & Lambert.

A century later, eleven of their descendants partnered to create Société de Négoce et de Participation (Sonepar) to manage the Group’s diversified holdings outside a declining textile industry. Having identified electrical material distribution as a promising business, Henri Coisne and his brothers bought out Comptoir d’Électricité Franco-Belge in 1969.

During the 1970s, Sonepar expanded across France through a combination of multiple business acquisitions and strong organic growth.

Going global

During the 1980s, Sonepar expanded across Europe and doubled in size, building a presence in Germany and the Netherlands before gaining a foothold in 1998 in the United States, which eventually became the Group’s biggest single market in 2007.  Also in 1998, Marie-Christine Coisne-Roquette, Henri Coisne’s daughter, took over as Group Chairman.

By 2000, the family shareholding group had made B2B electrical products distribution the key focus of its investing activity. The family holding company passed the name Sonepar on to its distribution subsidiary and was renamed Colam Entreprendre. Sonepar branched out into new geographies in Asia and Latin America.

Sonepar as global leader

In 2008, the Group deepened its global footprint by buying up substantial assets from Hagemeyer, the world’s third leading distributor at the time. That gave Sonepar a presence in 35 countries.

In 2014, Sonepar further boosted its international footprint with the acquisition of entities with local market leadership. In the United States, for example, the buyout of IDG (to become Vallen in 2016) strengthened the Group in the integrated supply, energy and industrial distribution markets.

Today in 2018, Sonepar does business in 44 countries through 167 operating companies.