Graybar rejects private labeling

Sunday, July 1, 2007

ST. LOUIS--Fortune 500 distributor Graybar, a relatively recent entrant to the security market, but with many years of servicing the electrical and communications market, has taken a public stance against the sale of private-label products. The stance was made most public with an ad in TED Magazine, a publication distributed by the National Association of Electrical Distributors, but Paul Koebbe, national market manager for security at Graybar, confirmed "Graybar is making that stand across the board."
"We feel very strongly," Koebbe said, "that as a distributor, our role is to support the brand equity of our suppliers, and there's a lot more to those brands than just the names. There are whole organizations behind brands, doing research and development, overseeing quality manufacturing processes, and employing qualified people who provide service and support."
At least three other distributors contacted by Security Systems News did not choose to comment on the practice of distributors selling products, such as cable or cameras, under their own brand.
Koebbe said Graybar decided to make its position known after it was increasingly an issue with suppliers in the electrical side of its business, who were unhappy with the potential for competition. He also feels, however, that it protects the company's customers.
"If integrators install private label products," he said, "they can't be sure of the overall quality. They don't know what processes went into it. For example, I have had some conversations with some brand-name wire manufacturers. They've seen copper-clad aluminum coming into the marketplace. If you think back to what happened in the '60s and '70s, you know they are not metals that enjoy each other's company. They don't work well together. A product like this could cause some real problems for integrators and their customers. The moral of the story is that integrators should be concerned about the quality of what they're buying."
"I think that the industry as a whole needs to be aware of how prevalent private-labeling could become," he continued. "The Internet and catalog dealers are driving it as well."
Koebbe wouldn't go so far as to say this is a challenge by Graybar to the rest of the industry. "What we're trying to do," he said, "is bring an awareness to the industry as a whole, and to the customers out there, to encourage them to think about what they're buying. We want integrators to avoid possible liability issues and install quality products that will help protect their reputations and the industry's reputation."