Seeking a much-needed presence in the Canadian market, Imark Group, Inc., Oxon Hill, Md., announced an alliance with IED Limited Partnership, Etobicoke, Ontario, a buying/marketing group of 30 Canadian electrical distributors. The organizations will pursue national-account and integrated-supply contracts together.

The North American alliance will support national-account and integrated-supply opportunities, as well as the sharing of best practices between the organizations and among their members, said Steve Cunningham, Imark's president and chief executive officer.

The alliance gives both groups a way over a hurdle that had long stood between their members and some national or multi-location accounts. Alone, the groups had no way to serve a customer's facilities across the border except by picking individual distributor allies for each account, a hazardous process.

"When they pick up the phone, they don't know if they are calling the best distributor in the U.S. or the worst," Cunningham said. "So the tendency has been 'Let's just get hold of one of the chains.' They don't really care to do that because they are all independents."

Although the two organizations share some suppliers and each has access to some suppliers that the other buying group does not, Cunningham said that there are no plans, at least initially, to combine purchasing power.

The two organizations combined represent 200 independent electrical distributors with more than 900 locations and $5.5 billion in annual sales.