Distributors are selling their businesses at a pace the electrical wholesaling industry usually only sees in the most active acquisition years. And while industry analysts aren't willing to say 2011 will see a record number of distributor deals, this year is shaping up to be one of the most active acquisition years in the last decade.

Electrical Marketing has already reported on 19 distributor mergers and acquisitions in 2011, while in all of 2010 there were only nine distributor deals.

The most common acquisitions this year have been deals where distributors want to expand into a tightly focused niche outside of the mainstream electrical market, as was the case the with the purchase by Horizon Solutions, Holyoke, Mass., of Tekinor Energy Solutions, Fall River, Mass., to bolster its growing ESCO business; Steiner Electric Co.'s acquisition of Inland Cutting Product and Industrial Sling Co., both of Countryside, Ill., to build its industrial supply business; the acquisition of D&D Tool & Supply, Vista, Calif., by OneSource Distributors, Oceanside, Calif., to expand into the sales of tools and industrial supplies; and WESCO's acquisition of RECO, Cincinnati, an automation specialist.

Other distribution industries are seeing plenty of acquisitions in 2011, too. Indeed, many of the largest distributors in other market verticals have been busy buying companies this year. For instance, HD Supply, Atlanta sold its plumbing business with 2010 sales topping $400 million to Hajoca Corp., Ardmore, Pa.; Kaman Industrial Technologies Corp., Bloomfield, Conn., acquired Target Electronic Supply, Inc., Westwood, Mass., a motion control distributor that will become part of Kaman's Minarik subsidiary.

Acquisition activity should remain brisk for the foreseeable future according to two sources familiar with mergers and acquisitions in the distribution industry. Burk Burkhart, HT Capital Advisors, New York, said earlier this year that owners of distribution companies want to take advantage of the current record-low maximum 15 percent federal capital gains rate, which will expire after Dec. 2012 unless it's extended by the U.S. Congress.