ACDC – The Electrical ‘Supermarket’

ACDC – The Electrical ‘Supermarket’


Vital Stats

  • Player: Ricardo Maio
  • Franchise: ACDC Express
  • Established: 2007
  • Contact:

Until the mid-2000s, those in desperate need of electrical supplies had little option but to go to large wholesalers, where the purchasing process could often be difficult and frustrating.

If you weren’t sure what exactly you were looking for, it was difficult to weigh up your options and consider different alternatives, since the buying process was largely blind – you would usually simply order from a pricelist or catalogue.

It became clear, therefore, that an opportunity existed to create a completely new sort of electrical store: One that would revolutionise the experience, and make buying complex electrical supplies much easier for the customer.

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How would this be done? Quite simply, by creating retail stores that allowed customers to browse and compare products in exactly the same way that one would do at a supermarket. Items would be on display, free to be examined by shoppers.

These new shops would be called ACDC Express

“We realised that there was an opportunity to create a new kind of electrical store,” says ACDC Express MD Ricardo Maio.

“We wanted to create a retail space that was open and user-friendly, and offered a wide range of products. So, with this in mind, ACDC Express was started as a retail store that would stock products supplied by ACDC Dynamics — an importer, manufacturer and distributor of electrical supplies that was well-established and very respected.”

Entering the retail space


ACDC Express was formed in 2007, and currently boasts a portfolio of 20 stores. The company consists of independently — owned electrical retail stores whose products are primarily sourced from ACDC Dynamics. It boasts a product range of over 75 000 individual items.

That includes security, hygiene, automation, telemetry systems, pumps, switchgear and instrumentation, energy management and power factor control, solar, tools, wiring and cable management, as well as a comprehensive range of lighting products. This includes premium brands such as Gewiss, Terasaki, Datalogic, C & S Electric, Rhomberg, Weicon, Moël, Orbis and Oérre, to name a few.

“We realised that ACDC Dynamics didn’t feature in the retail market and it was a great opportunity to shore up our value chain and create another revenue stream. Franchised retail stores would increase the number of dedicated buyers that could help us grow the brand,” explains Maio.

When the first ACDC Express store opened, it offered a completely new experience. It was the first specialist electrical retail store aimed at the household, contractor, industrial, agricultural, mining and manufacturing sectors.

“We offered a massive product range — 60 000 items, which has now grown to more than 75 000. What really made us stand out, though, was the retail store concept that mirrors the convenient and versatile shopping experience customers have become accustomed to in supermarkets,” says Maio.

“Having stock on display is a strong selling point because many of our customers are technical and hands-on people who like to touch, feel and compare products.”

A unique proposition

What makes an ACDC Express franchise such a favourable investment? According to Maio, its unique concept makes it very attractive.

“We’re the only electrical franchise store in the world, not just in South Africa. Even though we’re electrical specialists, stores aren’t limited to a single kind of customer. We serve everyone from DIY enthusiasts, to contractors and large corporates.”

Because of the relationship with ACDC Dynamics, stores can expect excellent margins when focusing on a mixture of industrial and retail customers.

‘Bible’ salesmen


To realise the dominance that ACDC Dynamics has in the market, one need only study the company’s industry catalogue.

“Everyone — from contractors to architects — has this catalogue,” says Maio. “In fact, it’s come to be called ‘the electrical bible’. Because of this in-depth specialist knowledge, we’re able to train franchisees and their staff to become experts in their own right — they needn’t have industry experience. Support and regular training doesn’t just help franchisees run their businesses well; it creates great customer service and value.”

Help from above

Apart from intensive training, ACDC also manages marketing and systems and keeps up to date with electrical developments, so franchisees can focus on sales and staff.

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ACDC Express has also developed a standardised and user-friendly IT infrastructure, which makes managing a store much easier.

“Before opening, we also get our franchisees to pack their stores after two weeks of training. It’s part of the process of getting to know their store and benefits them when helping customers,” says Maio.

The ideal franchisee

“We like owner/operators, as they’re 100% committed to the store, and are therefore better at driving growth,” says Maio. “A prospective franchisee needn’t have industry experience, but they must be willing to learn about products, procedures and systems for the store and staff.”


GG van Rooyen
GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.