Independent Builders’ Merchant of the year (1-5 branches)

Published:  22 June, 2009


2007 RAY GRAHAMS  Co Down, Northern Ireland  

2006 RAY GRAHAMS  Newtownards, Northern Ireland




Co Down, Northern Ireland

Ray Grahams Ltd began trading in 1970. The ‘store’ is an independent family-owned business which is now in its third generation. It has grown into a 36 000sq ft one-stop builders and DIY centre which employs 40 local people.

For 2006, the merchant’s turnover was £3.5m. Projected turnover for 2007 is £4m. Customer footfall has risen by a third and turnover is expected to be up by 20%. 

Ray Grahams has taken on more staff and rewarded long-serving members with key roles within the company. It has completely redesigned its website and brought it up-to-date in line with its new premises.

Ray Grahams has a product range of 20 000 lines. “If we don’t stock it, we will do our best to get it,” is its pledge.

The merchant offers a personal service for its customers and has ample on-site car parking. 

Eight family members work in the business. This, says the merchant, makes it ‘more conscientious’. Long opening hours, a delivery service which includes Great Britain and Europe is augmented by a mailing list which is constantly updated.

Female staff work at the counter, so female customers will feel at ease when they shop at the merchant’s premises.

Competitive pricing; a smoothly running computer service; one-to-one relationships with suppliers and customers, and a more efficient website all contribute to the merchant’s offering.

The merchant runs an annual tools and bathrooms show, offering offer one-off deals. This attracts customers from all over the country.

In the last year, Ray Grahams has completely refurbished its first floor 12 000sq ft showroom to make it more customer-friendly.



Ray Grahams began trading in 1970. The ‘store’ is an independent family-owned business.

“In 1998, we built a 12 000sq ft store and showroom with a sawmill, which cuts and machines timber. At the family home, we took some land we own and developed it into a yard so we are now buying full container loads of heavy products.Buying in bulk also gives us that competitive edge. 

“In 2004, we bought a new site and had plans for a 36 000sq ft sawmill and superstore and in 2005 we developed the project.”

 On 19 March 2006, Ray Grahams closed for 15 days. All the family and all the workers worked from 7am until 11pm at night driving vans, lorries and any other vehicles that could carry stock 500 yards up the road to the new premises. “Everyone involved worked their socks off to get opened on 4 April 2006. This project will have cost us in the region of £3m plus."

The response, says the company, has been “unbelievable”. Its customer flow has increased by 30% within four months of opening. Ray Grahams extended its opening hours from 8am Monday to Thursday, while remaining open seven days a week. The merchant also offers:


  •  3000sq ft dedicated to tools.
  •  12 000sq ft first floor showroom for doors, over 20 full bathroom suites and other home décor.
  • 17 000 lines of hardware, building materials and timber.
  • On-site car parking.
  • Female staff serve at the counter to entice women shoppers.
  • A delivery service anywhere in Great Britain or Europe.



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