Major Distributor Sells Via eBay

Most contractors don’t regularly cruise the Web – even the sites of major suppliers – for bargains. There might be a reason to start . . . but on eBay!

Graybar, which sells more electrical and VDV products than any other North American distributor, recently concluded a pilot project which saw it sell tools, VDV, and electrical materials via eBay. There’s more to come.

"We have been doing a pilot, and we’re now moving to the next phase of implementation," Deb Weis, the company’s E-commerce director, told Electrical Contractor.

Many in the electrical industry have written off E-commerce after the 1998-2000 hysteria surrounding, and subsequent destruction of, the dot-coms. It’s not possible to know whether Graybar’s eBay effort is something new.

However, coincidentally, on the day before this magazine called Weis, an eBay press release said that site will put more oomph behind business-to-business.

While Graybar hasn’t done marketing or press releases for its eBay effort, it wasn’t a secret. Visitors to could find a clickable eBay "button" on the company’s home page!

Several questions might occur:

Is this distributor selling surplus electrical materials via auction? Not necessarily, Weis said. eBay sellers can place a fixed price on items.

Are manufacturers upset about seeing their items on eBay? Weis said the company had discussed plans and goals with those whose products ended up on the site. What will Graybar sell now, after the pilot? Weis didn’t want to help competitors; the answer, she said, will be clear to those who go to the company’s eBay site regularly.

Putting it in perspective, she noted that the eBay effort was merely an exploration of "an alternate channel." Starting in late February, Graybar’s plan was to enhance its sales through this alternative. EC

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