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Electrical Distributors’ Association centenary celebrations at Kensington Palace

Debbie Eales reports on the 100th anniversary celebrations of the EDA as a new book charts the Association’s fascinating history, through two World Wars and global downturns…

A gala lunch in the Orangery at Kensington Palace on July 3rd, marked the 100th anniversary of the Electrical Distributors’ Association (EDA). The day began with a briefing by Director Margaret Fitzsimons who spoke about the history of the EWF and the EDA and the future of the Association, whose aims include:

– Facilitating relationships between wholesalers and key suppliers through networking events;

– Providing sector-specific education and training, with the development of new courses and training formats;

– Effecting closer cooperation with electrical sector partners for the benefit of the sector;

– Lobbying Government;

– Developing skills;

– Awareness raising initiatives, and

– Offering medium and long term forecasts.

Guests were greeted on the terrace by Ray Evans, the EDA’s recently retired Director. Some of the guests took the opportunity to see a fascinating exhibition – ‘Fashion Rules’  – being held at Kensington Palace, featuring dresses worn by The Queen, Princess Margaret and Diana, Princess of Wales.

Simon Barkes (BEMCO), President of the EDA, welcomed guests to lunch and Michael Beswetherick, the official EDA historian and Past EWF President said grace.

A raffle introduced by Pauline Cooke, President of the Electrical Industries Charity, raised more than £1,900 for this worthy cause.. The prize, tickets for a corporate hospitality suite at Old Trafford, were won by Geoffrey Barkes, past EWF President and formerly of BEMCO.

The Loyal Toast was proposed by Steve Bratt, Chief Executive Officer of the Electrical Contractors’ Association. After lunch, Richard Shaw, Managing Director of GreenBrook Electrical, addressed the guests on behalf of affiliated members. Richard gave a wonderful speech and wrote a poem marking the occasion.

Ray Evans concluded the lunch with a heartfelt speech and invited those that wished to continue networking the opportunity to do so in a neighbouring venue.

Celebrating 100 years of service

The EDA has produced a wonderfully evocative hard-backed book, telling the story of the Electrical Wholesalers’  Federation and the birth of the EDA.

Chapter by chapter, the book takes readers through the decades, from the moment the seeds were sown in February 1914 to the EDA’s current services and training opportunities.

What makes this book special are the fantastic illustrations that have been dredged from the archives – a real labour of love.

There are pictures of early Federation members, pages from the Register of Members, group pictures from social events, wartime photographs, pages from the first ever copy of Electrical Wholesaler magazine, images from the Golden Jubilee dinner in 1964, the first Federation catalogue, early recruits to the apprenticeship scheme, nostalgic advertisements and more.

It’s a fascinating read and a wonderful record of the excellent work and support that has been given by the EWF/EDA over a century.

The EDA has thanked EDA historian Mike Beswetherick for his stalwart work and “enormous contribution” to the Centenary Book.

Looking back – the evolution of the EDA

In February 1914, BEMCO joined 24 other wholesalers to become the first members of what was originally, The Electrical Wholesalers’ Federation.

EDA President, Simon Barkes, said: “From the start, the EWF set out to become a unifying element in a fledgling market that had already seen the formation of trade organisations to represent the interests of manufacturers and installers.

“While the in inter-war years saw the proliferation of local, family-owned wholesalers coming into the building trades distribution sector, the period since the Second World War has been one of consolidation.”

He went on to say: “National wholesalers have emerged and established their position through acquisition and organic growth and independent wholesalers have moved into Buying Groups in order to protect their competitiveness.”

With membership of the EWF “waxing and waning”, it was decided to examine the purpose and methods of the EWF, which paved the way for the newly named Electrical Distributors’ Association in 1998.

These days, services include business forums and an industry-leading training programme.

Looking back over 100 years, the EDA, in its different guises, has achieved a great deal. The original objective of protecting and furthering wholesalers’ interests has widened into shaping an organisation which exerts a more positive influence within the industry.

Today, more than 100 companies are EDA members, including the three large national groups, three buying groups and several independent wholesalers. These businesses combined operate from 1,560 outlets throughout the UK, with a turnover exceeding £4 billion annually.

A variety of resources is now available and members now have educational tools available to encourage youngsters into the industry.

The EDA now accounts for around 85% of its industry sector providing vital links between kindred bodies, the trade press and the industry charity.