Back in the 1990s, the majority of electrical wholesale outlets in Ireland were independently owned, but, by the millennium, many of these had been acquired by the major players. As a result, independent electrical wholesalers were then in a minority in the Irish market.
Almost overnight, the buying power in electrical wholesaling lay firmly with the multinationals. In response, a number of small buying groups began to emerge in Ireland, mirroring what had happened a decade earlier in the UK market.
In the year 2000, four of the current members set up the Irish Electrical Buying Group (IEBG).
“At the beginning, the vast majority of suppliers refused to recognise the IEBG as a buying entity but, within a short period of time, a number of additional members joined. Slowly but surely, more suppliers began negotiating with the group and the whole thing began to gain some momentum,” says Ken Legros, current Administrator of the Group.
Fast forward to today and the IEBG now has 15 members and 23 branches nationwide.
“Our coverage of the country is now on a par with our strongest competitors and we currently have outlets in 16 of the 26 counties,” says Ken. “A lot of hard work was done by my predecessors to bring new members to the group in strategic locations around the country so that, when the recession hit in 2008, the Group had sufficient buying power to survive that tough period.”
Ken has just completed his fifth year as Group Administrator and is pleased with the progress that the group has made in this time.
“We have added four new members – Tradekit in Killarney, N2 in Ashbourne, TEF in Tullamore and South West Wholesale in Tralee – and Trade Electric have also opened two new branches – Nenagh and Stillorgan – in those five years.” Having spent most of his career with Thorn Lighting, GE Lighting and GE Power Controls, Ken has used his experience as a supplier to remodel the IEBG as a buying entity and to make the group a more attractive partner for the top brands.
“Virtually every major supplier now trades with the Group, allowing the branches to offer a wide range of quality brands off the shelf to their customers at competitive prices. The IEBG is now widely recognised as a major player in the market.”
With branches in almost every major town and city in Ireland, the IEBG competes head on with its main competitors on a day to day basis.
“In many cases, we are the top wholesaler in our locality and every member of the Group can be justifiably proud of that achievement,” according to the current Chairman of the Group, Peter Curran.
“Customer satisfaction is the key element for all of our members. We would like to think that, as proprietor-owned businesses, each IEBG branch offers its customers a personalised service that is second to none.”
Looking to the future, the IEBG doesn’t see any particular reason to tinker with what has proven to be a winning formula.
“For the foreseeable future, we don’t envisage adding any new members to the Group, but we always keep an open mind on that subject and any interested parties are welcome to contact me if they feel that they can add value,” says Ken. “We are constantly looking for new ways to improve our business offering and, in that regard, we are very grateful to our suppliers for the support that they have given us and the faith that they have shown in us.”
The IEBG and its members are clearly on the right path.