David Hebdon: IT will take us forward as a group.

Let’s work together, says Cemco

Published:  22 October, 2010

With the theme ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, this year’s Cemco lightside and heavyside conferences attracted a record number of delegates. Operations director David Hebdon gives his account of why events like these are important to merchants everywhere.

“We have all come through the worst 18 months we have ever experienced,” said David Hebdon, managing director of John Nicholls and operations director of the Cemco Merchant Network. “Now we have to focus on how we will be doing things differently in the future.”

The buying group’s two conferences – for heavyside and lightside merchants – focused on getting back to basics, awareness of how the industry has changed and being prepared for a new future. “Both events aimed at getting the message to our suppliers that we want to work with them and want to do something that is different,” said Mr Hebdon.

“If you have one business plan, you should really have three in your port-folio – one for if the market takes off, one for if it remains static and one for if a double dip recession occurs,” Mr Hebdon explained.

The conference emphasised Cemco’s commitment as a buying group to the membership. “We wanted to get across the message of how united we are and how well we all work together as businesses, thinking about other members as your colleagues,” he added.

Cemco’s conference also focused on technology. “IT is an area we need to examine in order to take us forward in the future as a group,” he stated.

Cemco currently has a number of ongoing projects. It is working with eBiz to deliver a product called ‘Building Vine’. This is a portal for merchants to be able to access suppliers’ images and data straight into their own systems in a streamlined fashion, Mr Hebdon explained.

In addition, there was the Meet the Merchant segment. “We will never stop doing this,” Mr Hebdon said. “It’s especially great if you go into it prepared to discuss business.

“Our lightside and heavyside conferences will always be under one banner,” Mr Hebdon pledged. “But, we have recognised that these conferences have different needs, certainly in terms of supplier relationships.

“The lightside part of Cemco is still owner-driven and hands-on, so more detail goes into those negotiations because they are more specific to the individual merchant’s needs and to his area because plumbing and heating is quite regional.

“It is about trading – what you can do differently together in your specific area to create your own market in the local area. Heavyside is all about volume and distribution,” he said.

The issue of credit has been one for all businesses to face and Cemco has been no different having moved business from the traditional NMBS route.

The move has, Mr Hebdon comments, brought Unimer closer to Cemco. “We are still very close to NMBS and always will be, but we have also had to take a lot of business direct.”

David Hebdon answers key questions about the role of Cemco.

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