Holder Electric Supply in Greenville, South Carolina recently served as a hub for storm preparation when Hurricane Florence threatened its region.
Customers streamed in looking for parts to keep their generators working—one customer searched for supplies to set up an old backup generator in case his hard-wired generator had issues.
“There’s a good chance we won’t have this issue again for years, but all the items we sold were items we sell every day,” said Jeff Rogers, president of Holder Electric Supply. “So, if I order a bunch of L14-30P plugs and we don’t have a hurricane, that’s fine. We’ll sell them down anyway.” That’s an advantage Holder Electric Supply has as an independent electric distributor with an owner who’s not afraid to invest in inventory.
“We can make a quick decision about inventory to take care of customers because we don’t have to sit around and talk about it and analyze it, we can just order stuff and get it in here,” Rogers said. “If we sell it the first month, that’s great, but if it takes us two or three months to sell it, that’s OK too.”
Rogers maintains this philosophy all year long. In the fall, he stocks up on ballasts and lamps. “We typically get more calls for lamps and ballasts in the fall because parking lot lights are out,” he said. “We sell them all year long anyway, but we see an increase when the time changes.”
Holder Electric Supply has worked hard to develop a diverse customer base. Industrial/Commercial and ESCO accounts make up about half of the customer mix, followed by an even mix of builder/homeowner and MRO/OEM accounts. Residential and service contractors make up about 15 percent of the business, while institutional/government make up the rest of the client mix. The company’s lighting showroom serves builders, as well as homeowners looking for lighting beyond what the big-box stores sell.
The lighting showroom, The Gallery of Lighting, was established in 1986. “That side of the business is really affected by online sales,” Rogers said. “Customers can get all of their information and buy online. If you’re not careful, you become the place where people come to look, touch and feel, but then they go online and buy, which is not sustainable in the long run. We work really hard to remain relevant and are very thankful we have long-time loyal customers who we have served for years.
Edward Paul Holder Jr. owns Holder Electric Supply. His father, Edward Paul Holder, founded the business in 1968. The Holders take pride in continuing the distributorship as an independent, family-owned, community-involved business. “When Home Depot and Lowe’s started selling electrical supplies, you read articles that they would put electrical distributors out of business—and that didn’t happen,” said Rogers. “When the internet first gained traction, it was going to put us out of business. Then, the dot-com bubble crashed and that threat went away for a while. Now you’ve got Amazon, which has the potential to put us out of business. We are, however, a pretty resilient industry.”
Rogers did note that he sees the traditional distributorship landscape changing. “A lot of distributors have consolidated rather quickly,” he said. “On the electrical side, it hasn’t happened as quickly, but we are seeing more and more independents being purchased by regional and national distributors.”
Holder Electric Supply’s continued success comes as a result of adhering to a simple business philosophy—provide the right product at the right price and deliver it to the right place at the right time. “Our customers have a list of specific items they need to complete a job and Amazon really can’t quite do that at this point,” said Rogers. “If we see price becoming an issue for our customers, we will go back to the manufacturer and negotiate a price to keep customers buying locally.”
The business recently completed a project that resulted in a local solar power energy system provider coming on board as a new customer. Holder Electric Supply added solar power and upgraded its lighting system to LED lighting to reduce utility costs. Holder has seen a 65 percent reduction in energy use during peak energy usage time since the upgrades were completed. “It’s nice to know that the next time the economy dips, our power bill savings could help us keep an employee or two,” said Rogers.
IMARK Group membership has been especially beneficial to Holder Electric Supply. “Networking with other distributors has been a huge, huge plus for me,” said Rogers. “Every two to three months, I reach out to somebody to discuss an issue or opportunity.”
For more information, visit holderelectric.com.