Every builder’s merchant will have a no doubt have a familiar customer-base, whether that be Joe the plumber from down the road, or Sam the electrician and his apprentice who pop in for the occasional bulb or two, there is a certain degree of reliance on loyal customers.
However, what about the man in the corner who looks very unfamiliar to you? That man right there is a self-builder, and he is becoming ever more important to merchants up and down the UK.
Earlier this year, the UK Government introduced policies to make self-building more accessible. Ex-Housing Minister, Grant Shapps, revealed details of the much-anticipated £30million Custom Build Investment Fund to kick start the sector and it is said that mortgages for self-builders are set to rise by a staggering 141%. Further to this, there are currently 100,000 self-builders looking for plots in the UK alone.
Further to this, construction is expected to be even stronger too, with forecasts of home construction growing by 20% a year for the next two years.
It’s no secret that 2012 saw the merchant industry tackle one of the biggest challenges in recent times with the recession still impacting businesses all over the UK, however next year things could change quite dramatically for the merchant.
It goes without saying, then, that the self-build market will offer merchants a massive window of opportunity in 2013. However, in order to capitalise on this opportunity, the merchant of 2013 will need to up his game to meet the expectations of this savvy self-builder.
That said, the competition for merchants next year is set to get even tougher, and with new ways of purchasing building materials cropping up all the time, and many potential customers moving online, merchants needs to work even harder to stay one step ahead.
There is one thing that a merchant can deliver to its customers that some internet-based organisations fall short of – good old fashioned customer service.
With the self-build market seemingly on the rise as more self-builders will be coming to merchants for more than just products in 2013 – they’ll want and need a full service and advice to ensure their projects are successful.
In order to do this, merchants need to move away from merely serving customers, to actively selling to them – we should be looking at solutions and not just products.
Next year, merchants should be looking to actively engage with building product manufacturers to help facilitate a better service for the customer. Take for example Polypipe’s Home Solutions initiative, which pulls product through the supply chain to secure business for the merchant. In essence, tying products together to offer solutions to the customer and helping to make the merchant’s role more attractive to the savvy self-builder than any internet-based outlet.
Working more effectively with building product manufacturers would not only increase customer retention for merchants, especially smaller merchants, but also help towards the UK catching up with the rest of Europe when it comes to down to successful self-build projects, optimised to meet stringent legislation and guidelines.
Martin Dootson is marketing development manager for Polypipe Home Solutions.