1890: At Your Service
One-stop shopping. Most people appreciate the convenience of getting everything they need in one place. And it’s even easier with online shopping, where all you need are fast fingers and a credit card.
Graybar founder Enos Barton pioneered that one-stop shopping idea back in 1890.
Selling only to wholesale accounts (some things never change), Graybar forerunner Western Electric proposed to stock “all electrical supplies for which there is a demand.” Customers could also get pricing information on any electrical product that wasn’t in stock.
Dozens of well-known manufacturers signed on to offer items such as switches and sockets, clamps, industrial switches, circuit breakers and lightning arrestors. Competing brands gave customers lots of choices. The 1898 catalog listed five brands of ammeters, three brands of pliers, and two brands of theater lighting equipment.
The one-stop shopping idea was a huge hit. By 1901, the Western Electric supply catalog was more than 500 pages long, and a Philadelphia branch was the first of many warehouses to spring up around the country. By 1919, there were 42 offices, and the warehouse department described itself as the “largest electrical jobbing organization in the world.”
When Graybar was formally established in 1925, it distributed not only electrical equipment of all shapes and sizes but also household appliances. Graybar thrived, building on that simple one-stop premise of warehousing and distributing that Barton long ago thought would be a good idea.
Graybar has always been at the forefront of technology investment, whatever the era. Perhaps the single biggest impact on the business occurred between 2002 and 2004, when the company spent $100 million to upgrade its systems, breaking new ground in the process and setting itself up for future success.
Our value proposition means we’re constantly looking at what’s required for our customers and offering creative solutions to any problems they may have. We enable customers to do business any way they choose.
Today, Graybar has 290 locations across North America, with 8,500 employees specializing in supply chain management services and distribution of high-quality components, equipment, and materials for myriad industries. It’s still the same one-stop shopping that made Western Electric so successful, but technology and tradition come together to create a unique experience for customers.