Merchant Profile: Blanchford takes on Bicester

Published:  09 May, 2017

BMN recently sat down with Blanchford Building Supplies to discuss the company’s new branch, and its plans as the business approaches its 80th anniversary.

Blanchford Building Supplies has come a long way in almost 80 years of business. Since its inception on Queens Street in Oxford in 1938, the merchant has grown from a single branch to four, spread across Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire.

The company added its latest branch towards the end of 2016 in Bicester, securing a key market which Adrian Smith, managing director of Blanchford, says the merchant has been going after for a while. He said the area has great growth potential and that it’s great to finally have a branch there.

He said: “Bicester fitted our requirements, and it has done for some time but there hasn’t been any site available. So we’ve continued to look and then all of a sudden this site became available and we jumped on it.”

Branch network

Mr Smith said the company plans to keep expanding if the opportunities arise but that it hasn’t got any grand expansion plans in place. He noted that a lot of merchants seem to jump on locations even if they don’t quite fit the branch requirements, resulting in ‘satellite’ branches that lack some of the storage space and capabilities of the major branches.

While Blanchford wouldn’t rule these kinds of branches out as a possibility, the company is more than satisfied with its sizable branches. Having branches that all have enough storage space and land allows all of them to hold significant stock, feed each other and cover the company’s areas without putting too much stress on any particular location. Bicester has significant space for development itself, and the company is continuing to work on the site to allow for more outside storage space.

Online component

The branches are the focus for Blanchford, which, like many merchants, places great importance on face-to-face customer interaction, but the company has made significant developments in recent years with the online side of its business, in particular with its website and social media.

John Hayden, purchasing director at Blanchford, said: “Sales-wise, the website was going down and down, and between the directors we made the decision to either throw some money at it or just forget it. So we decided to invest in it and it’s actually paid off.”

Mr Hayden said the company has seen significant sales of high-end white goods through its website, and that having a strong online component has allowed Blanchford to reach a slew of customers outside of its usual areas of business.

Mr Smith said this investment is worth it to reach new markets but that you need to take it seriously and put in the time, or you won’t get anywhere at all. He said: “When it was first set up we just had someone update it and we’d leave it for a while, but it needs to be topical and it needs to be consistent.”

Heading toward its 80th year of business with four branches, and more than 85 members of staff, Blanchford is in a strong position to continue to improve the business even further.

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