Builders merchants are recognised as the go-to outlet for RMI builders but merchants of all sizes have differentiated service packages to support SME and regional housebuilders. Here, the Builders Merchants Federation explains how its members can assist in new-build programmes of all sizes.
The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) represents over 80% of UK builders’ merchants operating from 5640 branches throughout the country, as well as 227 building materials producers. The products made and delivered by their members are used in new homes nationwide, and housing demand and supply is one of the BMF’s three core political campaigning issues. They promote measures to speed up and simplify the planning system and campaign to ‘change the ratio’ in favour of regional house builders, thus fostering a more diverse market for the building of new homes.
Bradfords Building Supplies, a longstanding independent merchant serving the south west, is reaping the benefit of the service strategy it put in place four years ago to support smaller housebuilders. Their overall turnover has doubled to £150million and SME housebuilders now account for 25% of their business.
The MD of Bradfords, David, Young explained: “We created two dedicated sales offices to service housebuilders. Staff here are geared to inbound calls and have different specialisms from groundwork to roof trusses. We are there to help housebuilders at every stage, to make their lives easier and to streamline their purchase solution. We even adapt our product codes and invoice appearance to mirror theirs.”
The company also has a proactive ‘on road’ housebuilder sales team who will introduce architects, product suppliers and others they have a relationship with who they think may benefit a particular client.
“This is all part of a deliberate move away from a purely transactional relationship,” says David Young. “We want to earn our clients’ trust and our services are designed to help to value engineer their project.”
Bradfords’ clients build between 2 and 500 units a year; Travis Perkins is happy to work with housebuilders of any size. Across the TP Group some 15-20% of business relates to new housing. Travis Perkins, Deputy CEO – Plumbing and Heating, Andrew Harrison said: “Housebuilders have quite different requirements to customers involved in RMI where the build process can be less well planned. Housebuilding is much more structured, with each part of the build process leading onto the other and our logistical service has to satisfy their need for ‘in effect’ factory style production with just-in-time deliveries.
“If we are involved at the planning stage we can also assist with construction design and specification. If the specification is already set we try hard to work with manufacturers who have gone to the trouble to get specified, but involving the merchant earlier enables them to offer alternatives to achieve a more efficient, economic solution and a better overall product.”
Specialist merchants also support the new homes sector. Plumbase – whose core customer group is Gas Safe registered engineers – identified regional housebuilders as a developing market, which has grown to 10% of their business. They provide an enhanced stock, delivery and service plan for regional housebuilders seeking value to add to their supply chain.
Mark Bradley, Plumbase MD explained: “A regional developer building ten plus houses with the same specification of boiler, sanitary ware etc, may need a more fluid supply chain. Their local branch will hold that stock for them in quantity to be ‘called off’ as and when they need it, so they don’t have to worry about lead times, or have installers waiting on site potentially wasting time and money.”
Plumbase’s regional housebuilder clients also have a direct line to their account manager to speed the enquiry and ordering process. Once all the products for a particular house type are agreed, the client enters a master code and all stocked products are immediately populated within the order sheet, ensuring 100% order accuracy and providing certainty and customer confidence.