BMF Conference: Building Momentum and Focus

Published:  19 June, 2015

John Newcomb, managing director of the Builders Merchants Federation (BMF), welcomed the 454 delegates to first day of the conference this morning. Over the next two days, the delegates will hear from a number of motivational, political and industry-focused speakers with a number of presentations all based around the theme of 'Building Momentum and Focus'.

First, Mr Newcomb assessed for delegates how the Federation is doing against the five key themes launched at Members Day last September.

The first, industry analysis, is being addressed through the GfK Builders' Merchant Panel, which BMF has been fundamentally involved with establishing for the industry. The panel now has 20 members including Jewson, Ridgeons, Travis Perkins and EH Smith, all of whom submit monthly sales data to enable GfK to create a snapshot of sales trends within the merchant industry.

From this research, GfK now estimates that the generalist builders' merchant market is worth around £5bn, with the total merchant market worth approximately £14bn. This can be split into different sectors, with the panel estimating that heavy building materials take 46.7% of the market, and timber accounting for 21%. Landscaping, as the third largest sector, takes 7.3% of the market, and the rest of the industry takes the other 24.9% share.

Going forward, the GfK Panel will aim to produce in-depth quarterly reports as well as a monthly builders' merchant index for the industry's use.


Recruitment and Market Segmentation

The BMF has been working hard in recent months to recruit new members and boost its appeal to more areas of the merchant industry. To that end it has created forums for timber, and plumbing and heating, as well as for suppliers, financial directors, HR personnel and branch managers.

These, Mr Newcomb said, have all helped to develop the market's awareness of the BMF and broaden its appeal to a more diverse variety of people.

This has helped the BMF increase its membership numbers by 48% over the last two years. Membership now stands at 480 members, who have a combined sales of over £15bn and collectively employ over 86,000 people.

The BMF's target is to represent 75% of the industry, with 500 members and 250 suppliers by the end of 2018.

The Federation has also been developing strategic partnerships with other organisations across the industry, including the Institute of Builders Merchants, the CBI, NMBS and a number of major housebuilders.

Mr Newcomb used the Get Britain Building campaign as a "great example" of what these partnerships can achieve, where businesses and organisations can work together to encourage the UK to build more houses and improve its existing housing stock.

One key campaign the Federation is now embarking on is the Youth Recruitment Service, which aims to attract new talent to the merchant industry. A new builders' merchant careers recruitment site will go live next month - www.merchant-recruitment.co.uk - and the BMF has created an inspirational new video where current graduates and people who are embarking on solid new careers in the merchant industry talk about their experiences.

The BMF has also relaunched its Customer Charter recently, and Mr Newcomb encouraged delegates to promote that within their branches, so that customers and end users can see clearly what differentiates a BMF member merchant business from a non-member.

"I truly believe the BMF is a great example of a business that is Building Momentum and Focus," said Mr Newcomb, echoing the overall theme of the Conference.

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