Leading Lights 3/5

Published:  23 June, 2011

Regional leaders

1 MKM Building Supplies
Hull, Yorkshire
Turnover 2010: £130m (2009: £124m)
Chief executive: David Kilburn
Tel: 01482 345678
Stock: 77% heavyside, 23% lightside
Number of branches: 35
Affiliation: BMF, NMBS, LIMA, Unimer.

MKM is the UK’s largest independent builders’ merchant. “It’s people that make the difference delivering the best in terms of customer service,” said MKM. This philosophy translates into recruiting branch managers with an equity stake in the new business.

“This approach encourages the entrepreneurial branch manager to grow profitable sales as they share in the ongoing success of the newly- formed business,” the company stated.

“Despite the continuing tough market conditions in 2010, MKM’s turnover grew by 8%, and net profit
increased by 21%. This was achieved by focusing on key activities to grow its customer base, re-affirming the goal of ‘buy like a national, trade like an independent’, to further enhance margin, combined with strong cost and cash management," the company said.

MKM has plans to re-start its expansion programme, with new branches planned for 2011. “As ever, the key will be to maintain and grow market share within their geographical areas,” the company commented.

2 Ridgeons Timber and Builders’ Merchants
Turnover in 2010: £106m (2009: £104m)
Managing director: Angela Rushforth
Tel: 01223 466 000
Stock: 60% heavyside 40% lightside
Branches: 22
Affiliations: BMF, CBA, IoBM, NMBS, Unimer, TRADA.

The Ridgeons Group celebrates its centenary anniversary this year. It is owned by the founding family with the fourth generation now active in the management of the business. Anne Ridgeon is the chair and Angela
Rushforth is the managing director. The group includes Ridgeons Forest Products, which has a dedicated sawmill supplying timber products to Ridgeons merchant branches and directly to customers. In 2006, Ridgeons opened the Anglia Tool Centre, a specialist power tool retailer selling through its website and showroom.

Ridgeons grew the business in 2010 and opened a new branch at Martlesham Heath in Suffolk towards the end of the year, taking its number of branches within the East Anglian region to 22.

Last year also saw investment in specialist heating and plumbing centres, kitchen and bathroom showrooms and landscaping displays.

Ridgeons developed its capability in the sustainable and renewable markets, which will continue in 2011 with the launch of the Green Light Brochure. It demonstrates Ridgeons’ expertise in this area and aims to assist customers in complying with the Code for Sustainable Homes, as well as providing general advice on a variety of sustainable and renewable updates.

3 EH Smith
Solihull, West Midlands
Turnover 2010: 86m (2009: £82m)
Chief executive: John Parker
Tel: 0121 713 7100
Stock: heavyside and timber
Branches: 8
Affiliations: Cemco, NMBS, Unimer.

EH Smith, third largest of the independents, is a traditionally heavyside and timber merchant trading from eight sites with 450 staff in the Midlands and South East. It saw turnover increase by 4.6%.

4 Bradfords Building Supplies
Yeovil, Somerset
Turnover 2010: £78m
Chair: Andrew Merriam
Managing director: Dennis Smith
Tel: 01935 845245
Stock: 84% heavyside, 16% lightside
Branches: 32 (26 builders’ merchants and six timber and timber engineering)
Affiliations: BMF, LIMA, NMBS, Unimer.

The entire Bradfords Group has a turnover of £150m, making it the largest privately-owned builders’ merchant in the UK, trading in Cornwall, Devon, Somerset, Dorset, Wiltshire, Hereford and Worcester. Its size provides buying power “to stock the best quality and the widest range of products and to offer them at the most competitive prices,” the company said.

It specialises in heavyside products and timber, but has a significant lightside range, including 12 kitchen and bathroom showrooms and 12 tool hire departments.

5 Haldane Fisher
Newry, Northern Ireland
Turnover 2010: £75m
Group managing director: Ian Haldane
Tel: 028 30 263201
Stock: 52% timber, 31% heavyside, 17% lightside
Branches: 13
Affiliations: CBA; NMBS, Unimer, Wood NI.

Haldane Fisher is part of the Haldane Shiells Group, made up of Haldane Fisher NI, Haldane Fisher Isle of Man, and GE Robinson in North West England.

A builders’ and plumbers’ merchant, the group imports timber and timber products, and manufactures machined timber and engineered roofing and flooring solutions in Ireland.

6 Crossling
Newcastle upon Tyne
Turnover 2010: £64.8m (2009: £60.9m)
Managing director: Richard Errington
Tel: 0191 2654166
Stock: lightside
Branches: 14
Affiliations: CBA, NMBS, Unimer.

Crossling experienced an “interesting year with a poor first half but good second half” said Richard Errington, Crossling’s managing director. He is concerned that performance will suffer as government cuts kick in.

“We are looking to be proactive and keep giving a good service to our customers and take any opportunities which come along,” he said.

7 Huws Gray
Llangefni (Isle of Anglesey)
Turnover 2010: £66.5m (2009: £58.9m)
Managing director: Terry Owen
Chairman: John Llewelyn Jones
Directors: Elfed Hughes, Dewi Morris, Meirion Pritchard
Tel: 01248 724750
Stock: 60% heavyside, 17.5% lightside, 22.5% timber
Number of branches: 34 branches (plus head office)
Affiliations: BMF, NMBS, Unimer

Huws Gray has traded for 21 years with a mixed branch network, and specialist branches such as the brick distribution centres in Warrington and Queensferry as well as the roofing centre and truss manufacturing plant in Llangefni on Anglesey.

Turnover in 2010 increased by almost 13% despite tough market conditions.

“While the early part of 2010 saw the recently-acquired branch at Colwyn Bay start to bear fruit, we added to our branch network in August when acquiring Ainscough Building Supplies near Wigan to strengthen our presence in Lancashire,” said managing director Terry Owen.

“In a first for the company, it was decided to retain the long-established trading name, while at the same time, providing significant investment in terms of branch refurbishment. Given the right circumstances, this trading name retention will be the policy for any future acquisitions,” he said.

“We ended 2010 by acquiring a freehold site at Rhuddlan which, when opened in March 2011, provided our first presence in Denbighshire. Alongside our existing branches in Colwyn Bay, Prestatyn and Flint, it will significantly enhance our presence along the north Wales coast.

“Continued heavy investment in branch refurbishment, our transport fleet and IT capabilities, allied to an
excellent motivated and energetic workforce, means we seem to be performing well despite the severe economic downturn, and indicates that we are well-positioned for future growth in 2011 and beyond,” Mr Owen said.

8 Covers Timber and Builders’ Merchants
Chichester, West Sussex
Turnover 2010: £58.8m
Chairman: Patrick Green
Tel: 01243 785141
Stock: 45% timber, 37% heavyside, 18% lightside
Branches: 13
Affiliations: BMF, BMTFP, BWF, CBA, FSC, NMBS, PEFC, Unimer

Covers supplies timber and building materials from 13 branches in the South of England.

9 Nicholls and Clarke
Romford, Essex
Turnover 2010: £58.2m (2009: £60m)
Chairman: Kenneth Forbes
Joint managing directors: David Forbes, Stephen Forbes
Tel: 020 8586 4600
Stock: 95% lightside, 5% heavyside
Branches: 20
Affiliations: BMF, GAI, GGF, TTA.

Nicholls and Clarke is a manufacturer, distributor, merchant and retailer of building products.

The business consists of: N&C Building Materials – builders’ merchant based in London; N&C Glass – distributor, fabricator, processor and manufacturer; N&C Nicobond – ceramic tiles, adhesives and natural stone manufacturers and distributors; N&C Phlexicare – healthcare and disability products; and N&C Tilestyle – bathroom and tile retail outlets.

In February, N&C Building Products became sole supplier of sanitaryware to Tesco.

10 Lawsons
Whetstone, London
Turnover 2010: £52m (2009: £47m)
Chairman: Simon Lawson
Managing director: Joe Inzani
Tel: 01727 747320
Stock: 92% heavyside and timber, 8% lightside
Branches: 14
Affiliations: NBG, NMBS, Unimer.

Simon Lawson, chairman and the second generation of this family-owned merchant, focused the business on the loft conversion market, providing all the products and services required, delivered in one package on lorries with long reach cranes to put the goods straight onto the roof.

Recently, steel girders were added to the loft service simplifying the supply to the loft builder.
Lawsons has five branches that supply the heavyside materials and seven that supply timber and fencing to contractors around London.


National merchant leaders

Merchants under £50m turnover

Merchants under £25m turnover


BMF Builders’ Merchants Federation
BMTPF Building Materials & Technology
Promotion Council
BWF British Woodworking Federation
CBA Combined Buying Association
Cemco Cemco Merchant Network
CPA Construction Products Association
GGF Glass & Glazing Federation
H&B H&B  Buying Group
IoBM Institute of Builders’ Merchants
NMBS National Merchant Buying Society
TTF Timber Trade Federation
UNIMER United Merchants











Financial data: Information is supplied by the companies listed, independently verified where possible, and accurate at 22 March 2010.

This report was first published in the April 2011 issue of Builders' Merchants News.

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