A year of change

A look back at 2016— and a clear roadmap for 2017.



Chairman of Sonepar SAS


Chief Financial Officer

Key figures 2016

43 000
20.6billion €
of sales
900thousand +
B-to-B customers served worldwide
Order lines per day
2 800
Central distribution centers
Services & utilities

Multinational business

France (and Monaco)
Benoît Pedoussaut
525 branches
No. 2 in the market
Hervé Salmon
81 branches
No. 1 in the market
United States
Halsey Cook
731 branches
No. 1 in the market
Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Dominican Republic
Oscar Villa
9 branches
No. 1 in the market
Ricardo Thomson
19 branches
No. 1 in the market
François Anquetil
109 branches
No. 3 in the market
Colombia, Panama
Ricardo Rodriguez Mutis
9 branches
No. 1 in the market
Abraham Puerta
10 branches
No. 3 in the market
Vallen Proveedora : Camilo Kuri
Sonepar Mexico : Urcesino Palacios Barro
126 branches
No. 1 in the market
Costa Rica
Miguel Muñoz
4 branches
No. 2 in the market
Germany (and Luxembourg)
Stefan Stegemann
Holger Heckle
252 branches
No. 1 in the market
Mika Höijer
35 branches
No. 1 in the market
Luis Arconada
131 branches
No. 1 in the market
Lars Hamborg
13 branches
Jan Ferwerda
37 branches
No. 1 in the market
United Kingdom (and United Arab Emirates)
Ian Stewart
Andrew Percival
16 branches
No. 1 in the market
Baltic States (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania)
Heiki Liiser
18 branches
Anders Nordlöw
48 branches
No. 2 in the market
David von Ow
12 branches
No. 2 in the market
Czech Republic
Jiri Louda
30 branches
No. 3 in the market
Anders Nordlöw
48 branches
No. 1 in the market
Bernhard Weber
9 branches
No. 2 in the market
János Ágner
14 branches
No. 2 in the market
Sergio Novello
88 branches
No. 1 in the market
Wieslaw Romanczuk
42 branches
No. 2 in the market
Dan Georgia
12 branches
Matthieu Raffestin
177 branches
No. 2 in the market
Surote Panasahatham
4 branches
No. 3 in the market
Mainland China
Eugene Wu
33 branches
No. 2 in the market
Raja Sivaji Ghosh
7 branches
Francis Sa
41 branches
No. 1 in the market
Hong Kong & Macao
Alvin Mok
7 branches
HoST : Ko Cheng Han
Cable Solutions : Lawrence Tam
3 branches
No. 1 in the market
New Zealand
Steve Priest
47 branches
No. 2 in the market
Chin Hon Lim
1 branches

Worldwide initiatives to serve our customers

To make life easier for customers and meet their requests, Sonepar makes use of trade shows, digital applications, databases, optimized branches and customer satisfaction surveys. Here is a brief overview.

Our operating companies take a broad range of initiatives to boost contact between the Group’s customers, staff and suppliers. The aim is for customers to be able to select and order products more knowledgeably and for Sonepar to gain greater understanding of the changing needs of its highly varied customers.

Such direct contact gives us the opportunity to listen carefully to them, learn about their needs and interact with them. In addition, the Group exhibits at electrical industry and more narrowly focused trade shows— always with a highly active approach. At the three-day industrial automation show held in May 2016, for example, over 200 customers visited Sonepar Italia’s 160 square-meter area, many of them establishing contact. On the other side of the world, in Australia, ALH played an active role at the Gladstone Tradeshow alongside 38 suppliers, displaying expertise to more than 400 customers and showcasing the latest electrical product innovations.

Organizing our own shows

In the Czech Republic, Mexico, Germany, Norway, Panama and elsewhere, we organize our own shows and events in partnership with our suppliers. In April 2016, Lumen held its ninth Lumen Exhibition in Montreal, Canada, bringing together 175 suppliers over a two-day period.

  • 50+ shows for customers in 2016
  • 114 supplier booths

Sonepar France similarly put on its eighth SIDEC show, first in April in Lyon, and subsequently in November in Marseille, structured around three markets (residential, service and industrial). The 114 supplier booths drew more than 4,100 visitors. In Hungary in September, Sonepar held its tenth major event, one with unmatched scope in the Hungarian market. Over 1,550 electricity professionals took the opportunity to meet up and find out about the latest developments in the industry. In Latvia, SLO successfully staged its fifteenth Winter Day show.

Group operating companies are also increasingly inventive when it comes to devising unconventional events that can strengthen customer relationships. Sonepar Germany has a truck that drives around with the Sonepar Innovation Lab on board, and Technische Unie even operates a floating show that travels the Dutch canal system in the autumn.

The exhibition boat

Technische Unie exhibition boat in the Netherlands

This boat traveled the Dutch canals for six weeks, anchoring in a total of twenty-two towns and cities. 75 suppliers of over 125 brands joined Technische Unie in this unusual project, which presented innovative solutions to three market needs: smart homes, smart buildings and smart workplaces. More than 5,200 customers “visited” this stunning exhibition boat. Technische Unie subsequently sent out a questionnaire so that visiting customers, suppliers and associates could rate this original experiment. The outcome? Extremely positive feedback on an event that brought people together and introduced them to the latest innovations in the marketplace.

Online solutions that save time

If customers don’t come to us, we connect up to them. To meet their needs, Group companies runs webshops, and have more recently introduced applications for tablets and smartphones to facilitate the product search and order process. There were many new, redesigned or improved programs in 2016, all of them with a similar purpose: get people to use digital tools more easily, with greater confidence, anywhere and any time.

In the United Kingdom, Routeco overhauled its e-commerce platform with enhanced features and a larger number of products on offer. Sonepar Italia likewise extended its digital platform and launched a new website. And for the third year in a row, Gescan won the Click & Order E-Commerce Leadership award given out by the Electro-Federation Canada (EFC). Meanwhile in Colombia, Melexa started up a new customer web portal, recast its website and established a clear presence on social networks. Sonepar companies in the United States developed a mobile solution for scanning products, with all necessary information instantly available.

In Mexico, Vallen Proveedora connected its e-commerce platform to a partner firm’s integrated supply center. These examples bear witness to the Group’s responsiveness. There are also mobile apps like Advantage Mobile, rolled out by Corys in New Zealand this past October. A total of nine Group country organizations now use the same software platform. The plus point common to all these improvements is that they are quick and easy for users.

Sonepar Innovation Lab, Germany

The Sonepar Innovation Lab in Germany

The plan to create “an intuitive digital adventure” on board a truck became a reality in early 2016—and a successful one, too, that attracted over 5,000 Group associates, suppliers and customers as visitors. The truck rode all over Germany, making a total of thirty-three stops. The purpose of this “lab” was to showcase innovations and highlight Sonepar’s ability to anticipate upcoming developments in manufacturing and electricity, to whet people’s appetites and build stronger ties to customers. Its multimedia content focuses on the latest technology trends, from smart homes to e-mobility and from interconnected systems to digitization of the economy. In 2017, the project will be moving to the next level, centered on smart homes and Industry 4.0 driven by the latest in technology. So there’s a good chance that Group customers will soon be entering an extraordinary world of “digital and emotional experience!”

A constantly enhanced branch network

Sonepar’s digital applications and extensive branch networks are obviously complementary in nature. For that reason, we have continued to increase or geographical coverage and improve customer service at branches, while updating and revamping branch merchandising (e.g., customer flow and signage at branches, the number and classification of items, news and information, integrated showrooms). Sonepar Austria replaced its former branch in Salzburg with one in a new, larger, more modern building. In Canada, Lumen opened two additional branches last year to provide better local service. Hagemeyer China chose Beijing Road in Shanghai as the location for a new branch that features an extremely wide range of products and suppliers. In France, the renovation–upgrade program continued, with 200 branches now entirely redesigned. In Italy, Sonepar opened three new branches that are more conveniently located, more up to date and more spacious. And finally, in Malaysia, KVC converted a full-service branch into an outlet dedicated to industrial customers.

branches entirely redesigned in France
Lumen additional branches
new branches in Italy

Tools for zeroing in on customer expectations

The Group also uses tools for analyzing customer needs and trends to be able to meet those needs more effectively. To start with, we have continued to add new features to Watson, our favorite “detective”—the online survey tool developed several years ago by Sonepar International Services (SIS). Watson enables operating companies to carry out customer satisfaction, brand perception and similar surveys. There are also internal polls to assess distribution policies and the product offers of specific suppliers. The goal is to identify strengths and weaknesses so that corrective action can be introduced to enhance service. In addition, we conduct surveys of narrower user groups in order to help develop new services and test out novel approaches.

Watson, Sonepar's online survey tool

Lastly, more and more Group subsidiaries take advantage of the latest technology to deploy a broad spectrum of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools, including data collection and analysis software and customer support, marketing and loyalty programs. This makes it easier to fine-tune the responses to customer expectations in ways that due justice to their diversity, specific needs and constraints. Witjoint in China has already followed that path, as have Sonepar entities in Belgium, Italy, the Dominican Republic, Germany and Spain. And Sonepar France has already given staff members in several regions CRM training with a mobile phone interface to facilitate usage and adoption. In every case, customer satisfaction is the ultimate goal.

Working together to add more value

With its fifth annual international suppliers event, Sonepar has once again highlighted the importance of partnership for innovating, building to last and responding better and better to customer expectations.

In holding a fifth annual event for our international suppliers last year in Madrid, we were in fact working for our customers. To provide the right responses to customer requests, adapt to their changing needs and offer them leading-edge innovations, we leverage the preferred relationships we have built up over the years—our relationships with Group suppliers.

We do so on the basis of well-defined principles: making customers the abiding focus of our work, constantly aiming for operational excellence and exploiting the advantages of digital technology. That business model enables us, together with our partners, to generate added value in ways that are fine-tuned to each market, each Sonepar business line and the overall nature of our industry. But such a win-win approach comes naturally to a company that aims to be La Référence.

Databases to boost efficiency

Under the banner “Find your product,” one booth gave visitors a chance to find out “live” how you search for a product in a digital catalog. Suppliers actually got to hunt down their products in a Sonepar database using a computer, tablet or smartphone, thanks to a tried-and-tested system deployed by the Group in twenty-two countries called Sonepar Product Information Management Solutions. This makes it easier, for example, to share data (e.g., product features, classifications, photos), produce paper and electronic catalogs and enrich our webshops.

The Madrid event gave Sonepar executives and manufacturers the opportunity to align their vision and goals. The crucial role of equipment distribution in the value chain was discussed, while the issues surrounding digital transformation of our industry and the behavior of customers and end users were highlighted. Further themes included the importance of producing detailed product information and the vital need to provide our staff with additional, regular training. Last but not least, speakers emphasized the Group’s decentralized business model, driven by the commitment of our people and by the strong values they share.

  • 12 interactive booths
  • 3 banners

Twelve interactive booths arranged under three banners (“We are digital,” “We build operational excellence” and “We are customer-centric”) provided concrete examples of Sonepar achievements, typically through immersion experiences, many of them digital, in real-world situations. This enabled us to showcase Sonepar’s mastery of cutting-edge technology. There were video walls displaying key figures and explaining the job profiles of our associates; tablets and smartphones used to replicate the customer experience at our branches or elsewhere; virtual immersion in a variety of customer environments, including the solutions proposed; virtual reality headsets offering visits to distribution centers; augmented reality and more.

Suppliers Event 2016, Exhibit booths, Madrid, Spain

Virtual immersion at a distribution center

Under a banner proclaiming “A galaxy of solutions,” a booth showed the wide variety of logistics solutions used to address the special needs of local customers most effectively. After putting on a virtual reality headset, each supplier had the leisure of “strolling” down the aisles of a Sonepar “center of excellence” and discovering the complexity of Group logistics. Many attendees came away duly impressed with this 360° experience

Tailored customer solutions

Suppliers Event 2016, Madrid

Under the “Tailored service” banner, a third booth gave a virtual presentation of three customers—an electrician, a manufacturer and a consumer—that summed up their constraints and expectations. This was followed by three short videos explaining the specific targeted services crafted by Sonepar subsidiaries, and finally by a discussion of possible new services to be jointly developed.

Our markets