Customers trust you with their data, but what happens if your systems fail?  

RDS Global, the BMF’s cyber protection partner, offers timely advice.    
16 October 2018

Andy Flinn of RDS GlobalOnce again data protection – or the lack of it – is making headlines in the media. In the last month alone three major corporations admitted serious data breaches affecting thousands of customers.  

The credit card details of 380,000 British Airways customers were stolen from its website and app over a two-week period during August and September. Despite promising to compensate passengers for any losses, BA potentially faces a class-action lawsuit if it is found to have failed to protect their personal data.  

Hackers also gained access to the bank accounts and personal details of up to 800 UK ferry workers at Stena Line after they broke into the Scandinavian ferry giant’s systems via fraudulent emails.

While Dixons Carphone advised its customers that some 10 million records containing personal data may have been accessed during 2017 by hackers using sophisticated malware.  This breach did not involve financial details but the personal details stolen could easily lead to fraud.  

This is just the tip of a very large iceberg. Every industry, including the builders’ merchant supply chain, is being targeted. No business can afford to ignore the issue of cyber security nor the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that recently came into force to govern the way we hold, process, store and manage personal data.  

The implications to your business if a similar cyber break occurred could be monetary fines, penalties and regulatory audits at the very least.  If customers’ data is involved the knock-on effect from their loss of confidence in your brand leading them to take their custom elsewhere gives rise to a risk analysis that questions whether your business would be sustainable following such an event.  

As the company behind the BMF’s Cyber Audit Plus service, RDS Global can help to protect your business.  RDS is a one-stop shop to safeguard your business against various types of cyber-attacks, helping you to implement effective measures in an efficient way.  

When considering cyber security, three things are key: 

Consistency: Each cyber security measure should be consistently implemented across the board. For example, if you employ two factor authentications make sure that everyone uses this, from employees to administrators and upper management.  

Holism: Cyber security needs to be approached as a whole.There is no point in creating a highly robust and tightly secured perimeter when your data is inadequately protected from insider threats.  

Risk based approach: When formulating and implementing your security strategy it is vital to consider actual and potential risks the company faces, then conduct a thorough risk assessment to determine any current security vulnerabilities.  

RDS can assist you through the process and help you prepare and implement an action plan to minimise the risk, through the following steps.  

  • Assess your physical data security
  • Gauge employee awareness
  • Review and test outsider threat protection
  • Test your network security
  • Establish back up procedures

    The steps outlined are part of the technical requirements under General Data Protection Regulations, which in essence locks in Data Protection and Privacy for all individuals, both your employees within the business and your customer base outside.  

    For further information and advice on gaining appropriate Cyber and GDPR certifications call our IASME assessors on 0330 0538979 or drop an email to    

    This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
  • Your customers trust you with their data, but what happens if your systems fail? RDS Global, the BMF’s cyber protection partner, offers timely advice at a time when data protection - or lack of it - is making headlines in the media again

    Building excellence - the BMF's mission for members

    by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    12 September 2018

    John NewcombOur members are at the heart of everything we do as a Federation and we are passionate about adding value to their businesses. This is why we have been working with the Board to evolve our vision, mission and strategic roadmap for the next three years.  

    Having achieved many milestones within our original strategic plan, and seen significant changes in the economic and political landscape during that time, we are now moving onto the next stage to strengthen the building materials supply industry - Building Excellence.   

    As part of this process we consulted with members to discover their policy priorities for the coming year.  Their responses will feed into the policy and public affairs briefings we will be giving to politicians during the main party conference season this autumn.  

    Over the past 18 months we have given far greater priority to political representation, at Westminster, in the devolved parliaments and major city authorities, to highlight the contribution played by our industry to the economic growth of the country. This will continue to be an important part of our strategy, as well as campaigning on the issues identified by members as being of greatest importance to them.  

    Regional view

    I spent much of the last month visiting members in different regions, talking to merchants and suppliers from the south of England to the lowlands of Scotland.  While there are regional variations, the overall trading picture following four months of exceptionally dry and warm weather has been pretty positive - a view reflected in the BMF’s Builders MerchantBuilding Index (BMBI) data for Q2.  After taking into account the extra trading day in Q2 2018 over the same period last year, the BMBI reports that merchants saw average daily sales growth of 5.5% year on year.  

    The BMBI, which uses point of sale tracking data collated and analysed by the research company GfK, has become the gold standard for merchant sales statistics nationally.  As part of our drive for Building Excellence, we aim to be the leading provider of all industry data.  The next step will be to work with GfK to drill down further to understand differences in regional trading conditions.  This valuable insight will be shared exclusively with members at BMF’s Regional Meetings.  

    Developing talent

    Attracting and developing talented people within the industry will continue to be one of our main strategic goals.  With the latest group of school-leavers and university graduates entering the job market, we are extremely encouraged that initiatives relating to apprenticeships and higher level qualifications undertaken to date are paying dividends.  

    Our 2018 Remuneration Survey found that apprentices nationally made up 7.45% of our total merchant workforce at 30 April 2018, up from 1.12% in 2017.  This is particularly interesting as it contrasts markedly from the apprenticeship trend across all UK industry, where the number of new starts fell dramatically following the introduction of the new apprenticeship funding system in May 2017.  

    The BMF has embraced the opportunities afforded by the new system.  There are roles within BMF members for GCSE achievers, A level students and graduates alike. Our challenge now is to build on the initial success and recruit within the merchanting sector greater numbers than ever, from Trade Supplier Level 2 starters to the highest achievers seeking post graduate Level 7 opportunities.  

    Find out how we plan to achieve these and other milestones at the BMF Members’ Day Conference on 27 September, where we will be outlining further elements of our strategic plan. Book your place at here

    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
    Our members are at the heart of everything we do as a Federation and we are passionate about adding value to their businesses. This is why we have been working with the Board to evolve our vision, mission and strategic roadmap for the next three year

    Building a better future for our members

    by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    23 October 2018

    John NewcombAt its annual Members’ Day Conference the BMF unveiled a bold new strategy for the next three years, designed to help members to build excellence within every aspect of their business.  

    The strategy was finalised following extensive research with members to find out what matters most to them right now. The result will see the BMF extend its widely-respected training and business services to help the Federation’s diverse membership gain, and retain, business advantage at a time when the challenges facing our industry have never been greater.  

    The BMF will also increase its focus on political campaigning, the third key area of support identified by the research and will concentrate its resources on the issues given the highest priority.  

    While this is the start of a new era for the BMF, we are not throwing the baby out with the bathwater. We are building on what has proved successful in the past to deliver tailored business services, together with training, development and apprenticeships. Importantly each element can be drawn together to create a personalised package of value added services to meet individual members’ needs more effectively and help every business type within the building supply industry to move forward with confidence.  

    This is evolution rather than revolution, but our new strategyencompasses our bold vision of the future. Our mission for the next three years is to help members to excel at providing materials and services, for building a better future. This is encapsulated in our new strapline, “Building Excellence”. 

    In recent years, under our previous strapline of “One Industry, One Voice”, we have helped to unify the building materials supply chain. With 655 merchants and suppliers now in membership, representing an 80% share of the sector, we have become the network, or glue, that sticks a disparate group of national and independent merchants together.  Now it is time to move forward together, with the BMF as the backbone of the industry, promoting the sector’s vital contribution to UK economic growth and leading all members towards a larger share of the future.  

    We will support merchants and supplier members, building their skills, their voice, their business and their prosperity, helping them to build excellence into every aspect of their business. At the same time, our closer relationship with the IOBM means they will complement our work as a trade body by helping our members’ employees to build sustainable careers within the building materials supply chain.  

    At the heart of our programme are three core political issues prioritised by our members:

    Employment opportunities – we will work to attract new talent to the industry, with a refreshed website, nationwide exhibition programme to reach potential apprentices, and industry ambassadors to spread the message in schools and colleges. 

    Post Brexit Trading issues
    – we will use our influence with government to ensure business is not disrupted by customs duty/dockside delays, changes to VAT practice or other procedures that hamper timber and other imports. 

    Housing demand and supply – we will campaign to simplify and speed up the planning process, to enable our members’ customers to build the homes that the country needs.  

    We are not only ambitious for our members. By 2020, our aim is to be regarded as the leading trade association in the building materials industry for merchants and suppliers, representing 90% of the merchant sector, with 800 merchants and suppliers in membership. We also aim to be recognised as the most professional trade organisation in the UK. By constantly building excellence into everything that we do, we can all achieve our goals.  

    Find out how the BMF can work with you to build a better future click here.

    This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
    John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about the BMF's bold new strategy for the next three years, designed to help members to build excellence within every aspect of their business.

    Latest developments from the BMF

    An interview by Keystone with John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    8 October 2018

    John Newcomb2018 has been an important year as our new board of directors’ approach 12 months in office and have now completed a strategic review which was unveiled at our Members’ Day Conference last month. We have also recently announced the details of our bi-annual conference, to be held in Dubrovnik in June 2019.  

    Where does the BMF stand on Brexit?

    Firstly, because we represent members who voted for each outcome, leave and remain, we have adopted a completely apolitical stance on Brexit. Our role now, is to look for positive outcomes and protect our members from any negative effects that might arise post-Brexit.

    Advising members is obviously difficult until the trade arrangements are agreed but, in the meantime, we think it’s important for merchants focus on developing what they do best, which is, excellence in the supply and distribution of building materials. A really interesting development however is our new link with The European Association of National Builders Associations and Manufacturers (Ufemat). I was asked to take on the presidency for two years, a role which helps shape the strategy of the European Association.  

    There is a fear from Ufemat members of what will happen post-brexit and I think that’s why they feel having a British guy heading up the organisation is a statement of their intent that they don’t want to lose those connections and relationships with our European partners.  

    Chris Hayward who runs NMBS is currently heading up Euro-Mat which is the European buying organisation, so the irony is you’ll have two heads of the two big European organisations both Brits, during Brexit.  My first conference as Ufemat president will be in Lisbon this month, and the exciting thing as president is that I get to run the 2020 conference in the UK which is a really positive link to our European partners.  

    What led to your success and drives your enthusiasm in the industry?

    I’ve always been driven by a desire to succeed in whatever role I’ve been in, starting originally as a graduate trainee in JCB.  My roles have naturally progressed, right up from product manager and eventually to managing director, I think you’re shaped by your childhood, so I guess it’s partly my working class background that’s driven me to succeed.  

    I guess I’ve come full circle, starting with JCB, before moving into consumer marketing where I worked for Kingfisher in retail before moving on to marketing product brands like Russell Hobbs. Then 6 years ago the circle was completed, and I was back in the construction industry.  

    The manufacture and distribution of building materials is worth around £56 billion, so BMF members are responsible for around a third of the estimated £150 billion UK construction market.  

    It’s a fantastic industry to work in and I think the Government are starting to understand that a strong construction industry is important for a strong economy, but it’s still one of those industries where we can talk ourselves very easily into recession. Because it’s obviously very male-orientated we need to be mindful of diversity and inclusion, which is currently a big topic within our sector.  

    What are the BMF doing to attract young people to the industry?  

    We are passionate about bringing young people into the industry and are taking an active approach to promote it. Firstly, we have our own dedicated website, so this is a great resource for anyone considering a career.  The site includes video clips, featuring a range of job roles and gives a flavour of what it’s like to work in the industry.

    BMF also participate annually in Apprenticeship Week, so again we have lots of kids from schools and colleges that come along that can talk to people/ members about what it’s like to work within the industry.

    It is also great to see larger merchants like Travis Perkins taking stands at career fairs. I think one of the things we do very well, is a group called ‘Young Merchants,’ it’s open to both merchants and suppliers aged between 21-40. This is the age group who will be running the industry in 15 -20 years’ time. Currently about 80 strong, the group will have its first dedicated conference on 11 October, where some senior figures in the industry, including David Kilburn from MKM, Peter Hindle and Andrew Harrison from Travis, will be talking about their careers.  

    We’ve got Sheri Hughes, Diversity and Inclusion Director of Page Group, the biggest recruitment consultant in the world, and our Keynote Speaker is Architect and TV Presenter, George Clarke who is passionate about developing young people in the construction industry.  

    The Young Merchant group meet twice a year, plus an overseas trip to broaden and develop their experience in the industry, by seeing what merchanting and manufacturing is like in other countries. There’s a great social and networking element to it as well, going out for a meal, and having a few drinks in the evening as a group.  

    What role do industry events play for merchants?

    I believe in them passionately and we now run around 60 events annually, with almost every event open to both suppliers and merchants, because we believe both parts of the supply chain are equally important.  

    The events range in size, from a round table discussion of 15 people, to an all industry conference where we have 465 delegates. The most important thing is that we are providing networking opportunities for suppliers and merchants to talk about each other’s businesses, share best practices and its particularly relevant now because we have a number of material shortages in the industry, such as timber, roof tiles, insulation and it’s very easy for one to blame the other.  

    What’s next for the BMF?

    We have just released our new five-year strategic road map, setting out very clearly where we want to go. We’ve come a long way over the last six years, doubling membership to 655 from 324, since I joined the BMF. The key now, is not to rest on our laurels, there is plenty of growth within the market and opportunities to add new suppliers and merchants.    

    As the leading trade body in the sector we want to drive awareness of changes in areas such as technology and the need for diversity in the sector.  This year for example, we hosted our very first technology forum which was a big success. I think we’ve got a great future, but we are conscious of not being complacent, never being arrogant about where we are, but always looking to grow.  

    Do you believe in the role of an institute such as IOBM?

    The IOBM haven’t finally voted on the merger, but I absolutely believe in the role of this institute, if you look at professions like marketing, accountancy and plumbing and heating, there tends to be chartered institutes.

    Part of my long term plan is to look for chartered status at the institute, but I think we have to get the basics right first of all, because the institute is a brand really without a physical presence in the market and it needs to be relooked at, reconstructed and remarketed to increasingly engage younger merchants and suppliers. I think this industry warrants having its own institute and I think it’s right that it should be part of the trade association.  

    The progress at BMF has been impressive and a testament to your leadership.

    It’s all down to the support of our members at the end of the day, the organisation is built around that relationship. Too many trade associations forget that it’s the membership that keeps them in a job, but hopefully my team don’t have that view. We are also building a strong team by bringing quite a lot of young people into the organisation with new and fresh ideas, and it’s obviously important we practice what we preach!  

    This article is adapted from the supplement by Keystone which appeared in the September 2018 edition of BMN  
    John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about the latest developments at the BMF, including the recent strategic review which was unveiled at the Members’ Day Conference at St George's Park last month.

    Remuneration Report shows apprenticeships’ upward curve

    By Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
    25 September 2018  

    Richard EllithorneThe BMF’s annual Remuneration Survey covering the 12 months ending April 2018 provides some interesting insights into the merchant industry. One of the most positive is a huge leap in the number of apprentices employed.  

    The BMF has undertaken its annual Remuneration Report, showing salaries, wages and benefits paid to builders’ merchants’ employees for a number of years. Most of the financial information is shared exclusively with BMF members.  However, two years ago three new questions were added to provide greater insight into gender diversity, youth recruitment and employee churn rates.  With a second year of data to hand we are now able to track progress in these areas.  

    The greatest change is seen in the number of apprentices employed by builders merchants. Nationally, apprentices made up 7.45% of the total merchant workforce at 30 April 2018, a significant increase from 1.12% reported in 2017.  This is particularly interesting as it contrasts markedly from the apprenticeship trend across all UK industry, where the number of new starts fell dramatically following the introduction of the new apprenticeship funding system in May 2017.  

    Whilst some found the new funding system challenging, the BMF embraced the opportunities it has afforded.  Firstly, by forming an accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency and launching BMF Apprenticeship Plus, which removes potential administrative hurdles making it easy for BMF members to take on apprentices in any job role.  In addition, along with the Electrical Distributors Association, the BMF championed the development of a new, industry specific Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard - the first developed by our industry for our industry. Launched earlier this year, it is already on course to become the merchant sector’s primary Level 2 qualification.  

    We have not analysed why merchant apprenticeship numbers have risen so dramatically, but the increase in the number of relevant apprenticeship standards coupled with BMF’s administrative support services may well be a factor in encouraging more merchants to recruit apprentices and upskill staff.  

    Diversity in merchanting  

    The 2017 survey uncovered a wide disparity between the number of men and women working in the merchant sector, an 85:15 male:female employment ratio. The 2018 data results showed a small improvement to a ratio of 81:19 male:female. This was largely driven by the results in London and the South East, where women now account for around 25% of merchant employees.   

    Before we start celebrating, we should bear in mind that women currently make up 47% of the total UK workforce.   

    Women are significantly under-represented in the construction industry as a whole, yet it is still surprising that the gender gap is so great in merchanting, which is essentially a service industry. One possible reason is that many women don’t imagine themselves in any aspect of construction in the first place, so don’t apply for jobs in merchanting.  It is down to the industry to make itself more attractive to a wider cross section of the population, possibly by offering more flexible contracts.  This is an area that we will be looking at closely again next year.

    Employee churn  

    The survey also considered employee churn rates for the second consecutive year.  The BMF’s 2018 national figure of 20% leaving their job during the year is higher than the 18.7% reported in 2017, but remains lower than the UK’s all-industry average labour turnover rate of 23%. [*Source: Labour turnover rates 2017 published by XpertHR]  

    Employee churn can be seen as a positive indicator. Voluntary labour turnover rates can be a reflection of growing confidence in both the UK’s economic performance and employers’ optimism in recruitment.  However, if the churn level becomes too great it can lead to skills shortages, which is why we need to encourage more young people, both male and female, into the industry.  In particular, we must do more to change women’s perceptions about the industry.  The BMF is doing this in our Youth Employment campaign, which features a number of female role models, but more action throughout the industry is clearly necessary.  

    The BMF’s Remuneration Report is one of many business reports and services provided to members, who include both merchants and their suppliers.

    To find out more about the full benefits of membership and how to join the BMF click here, email: or phone us on 02476 854980.    

    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
    Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director talks about the BMF’s annual Remuneration Survey covering the 12 months ending April 2018 provides some interesting insights into the merchant industry. One of the most positive is a huge leap in t

    Learning in action

    18 September 2018
    by BMF Training & Events

    Mastermerchant champions, Chandlers Building Supplies accept their trophyOne of the quickest ways to learn more about yourself and the team around you is to be thrown in at the deep end. Which is just what the BMF’s annual Mastermerchant Challenge is designed to simulate.   

    Mastermerchant is a fun event with a serious purpose as the competition helps colleagues learn more about each other’s strengths and skills and what can be accomplished through teamwork.  

    The 2018 competition, held over a weekend in the Lake District, involved a range of challenges that tested the communication and problem-solving ability and physical perseverance of teams drawn from builders merchants and suppliers across the country.   For the second year running, “The Merchants of Menace” – otherwise known as Pierre Krause, Trevor Mudd, Kayleigh Sinclair and Sean Sinclair - from Chandlers Building Supplies emerged as the overall winners, with Alumasc taking the Super Supplier Award as the top performing supplier, their team comprising Pete Wainer, Wayne Willmott, Damascus Msumba and Pete Hickman.  

    But this really is a competition where everyone attending wins as they not only develop their problem-solving skills – by playing to the strengths of every team member – they also build stronger bonds with members of their own team and make new friends from across the country.  Which explains why so many participants can’t wait to do it all again.  

    The weekend event is organised by management development company Stephen Lee Associates, who specialise in helping both teams and individuals to unlock their potential to help achieve organisational goals, as Stephen himself explains: “It’s easy to work hard, but sometimes you need to step back to really see whether team members are being effective as well as industrious. Mastermerchant is essentially a programme of enjoyable challenges where teams quickly learn to observe the way they work together and begin to spot improvements that can be made in their method and approach to these tasks.”  

    Michelle Moulds of Beers Timber & Building Supplies, who took part for the first time says she will take valuable lessons back to her day job.   “We were thrown in with another merchant for our very first challenge to work as a team of eight on the ghyll scramble. We learned to develop trust and how to work with new people unexpectedly. We developed relationships with suppliers and with other merchants and see them not as competition but as allies for information sharing and teamwork in the future.”  

    On one of the hottest weekends of the year, the teams were thankful that many of the tasks involved getting wet – if only to cool down.  

    Congratulating the winners and all those taking part BMF CEO John Newcomb said: “Whatever the weather – sunshine or storm clouds - this is a fantastic teambuilding event and I’m delighted that so many teams from merchant and supplier members take part every year. I would also like to thank IOBM for their sponsorship this year and, of course Stephen Lee Associates for devising such an ingenious range of challenges.”  

    To find out more about next year’s Mastermerchant challenge please contact June Upton at or any aspect of BMF training, contact Paige Godsell at or call 02456 854980. BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degrees in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to on-line product knowledge and other specialist skills training.  

    Pictured: Mastermerchant champions, Chandlers Building Supplies accept their trophy L-R: Peter Hindle MBE (BMF Chairman), team members Pierre Krause, Kayleigh Sinclair, Trevor Mudd & Sean Sinclair, and Allan Durning (IoBM President)  

    This article appeared in the September 2018 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
    One of the quickest ways to learn more about yourself and the team around you is to be thrown in at the deep end. Which is just what the BMF’s annual Mastermerchant Challenge is designed to simulate.

    Metro Mayors want more devolution 

    Brett AmphlettBy Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy & Public Affairs Manager
    4 September 2018  

    At this time of the annual party political conferences, leaving aside Brexit, the single most pressing problem for government is the need to boost output, employment and educational achievement in poorer performing regions, compared to London and the South East - the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’.   

    The Mayors  

    Away from London, the BMF likes to keep track of regional policy. Central to this is devolution of powers and funds to cities, especially the eight with a directly-elected Metro Mayor:  

    • Ben Houchen - Tees Valley - Conservative
    • Dan Jarvis MP - Sheffield City Region - Labour
    • Andy Burnham - Greater Manchester - Labour
    • Steve Rotheram - Liverpool City Region - Labour
    • Andy Street - West Midlands - Conservative
    • James Palmer - Cambridgeshire and Peterborough - Conservative
    • Sadiq Khan - London - Labour
    • Tim Bowles - West of England - Conservative. 

    These regions account for nearly 42% of all economic growth, covering 21 million residents.  

    Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, explains current thinking and highlights what might be next below:  

    The debate  

    The BMF sometimes advances its members’ interests via think tanks. This summer, we were delighted to discuss further devolution in England with some of those involved. The first occasion was thanks to Devo Connect, who organised a debate in the House of Commons to answer the question: where next for English devolution?  

    Jim McMahon, Labour MP for Oldham West, is Party Spokesperson on Devolution and Cities. James Palmer was directly elected as Mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough in May 2017. In a spirited debate, topics included:  

    • the North is a victim of a disinterested government in London that neither understands nor has strong roots in northern town and cities
    • over-reliance on Council Tax and business tax to pay for investment in public services
    • the devolution genie is out of the bottle and there can be no going back
    • policy must play to England’s strengths and reflect regional identity
    • Westminster makes devolved areas fight each other for funding and patronage
    • current policy is only decentralisation, not real devolution.  

    Most of the participants agreed that some form of fiscal devolution was the next logical step.  

    The BMF posed a conundrum for politicians. In September and October, the Party Conferences take place. In November, the Chancellor of the Exchequer reveals his Budget. In December, it is Christmas so the question was “what single thing did each speaker want for Xmas from London?”  

    Intriguingly, only James Palmer answered. He wants control of Apprenticeship Levy funds that employers do not spend, and skills policy for 16-19 year olds.  

    The agenda  

    The second occasion was when Cllr Sir Richard Leese appeared at Warwick Business School in the Shard by London Bridge Station. At an invitation-only Centre for Cities event, the BMF joined Sir Richard, Leader of Manchester City Council, to discuss the urban revival of his city over the last 25 years. Cllr Leese has met the BMF several times after their first encounter in June 2009 at the Greenbuild Expo in the G-Mex.  

    For a Labour politician, he was generous to praise two Conservatives who did a lot to help revive northern cities: Michael Heseltine in the 1980s and George Osborne in the 2010s.  

    The BMF asked Sir Richard the same question “What do you want for Manchester as a Xmas present from Whitehall?” He responded "full devolution of the post-16 skills budget and flexibility to use surplus Apprenticeship Levy if not spent by employers."   

    The scale  

    These occasions echo views given to the BMF by Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands, when he visited the BMF office in Coventry. Improving skills is a huge challenge, and Mr Street wants funding and flexibility to make apprenticeships succeed. As Andy develops a Local Industrial Strategy, he aims to bring government and employers together to improve skills in the West Midlands. His biggest priority for his second year as Mayor is to help people gain skills to get well-paid jobs. 

    Official figures obtained by the BMF show the West Midlands has a shortage of skilled workers. The proportion of highly-skilled people in the region is about 15% below the England average. One in every eight people in the West Midlands have no qualifications.  

    Mayor Street’s view chimes with the BMF’s. Parents must be encouraged that university is not always the right choice for their child. Without proper careers guidance, the risk is that young people are channelled into a career that may prove to be the wrong choice. Students leave university with no guarantee of a job and a £40,000 student loan to repay. They could instead join a business like those of our members, that offers meaningful jobs and rewarding careers for people of all ages.  

    Next steps 

    Devolution for housing and planning, education and skills, and transport and infrastructure, is happening. BMF members would be foolish not to make the most of what devolution offers the housing and home improvement markets the BMF serves.  

    That is why John Newcomb and Brett Amphlett are at the Party Conferences to lobby mayors and local authority leaders to explain the role, value and importance of merchants and manufacturers - and the Federation itself - to deliver for local communities.   

    For more information please contact Brett Amphlett at    

    This article appeared in the autumn 2018 edition of One Voice  
    Metro Mayors want more devolution by Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy & Public Affairs Manager. At this time of the annual party political conferences, leaving aside Brexit, the single most pressing problem for government is the need to boost output, empl

    Five key things builders’ merchants should know about health and safety

    John SouthallBy John Southall, CEO at Southalls (BMF Safety Plus Service providers)
    28 August 2018  

    By necessity, builders merchants tend to be more savvy than most when it comes to health and safety practice – after all, the average merchant will be inspected typically every 2 years by an Environmental Health Officer and left with a report of legal contraventions to remedy or best practice recommendations. In addition to insurance company requirements, civil claims and customer feedback to keep you on your toes.

    But this approach is reactive not proactive and over the past couple of years, a lot has changed. From the introduction of new sentencing guidelines in February 2016, the consultation for updated manslaughter sentencing guidelines, regulatory updates, HSE priority topics, through to Brexit preparations, health and safety for builders merchants has been under the spotlight like never before.  

    Here are five key things that every merchant builder should know about health and safety in the present day.  


    The ‘new’ Sentencing guidelines introduced in February 2016 have revolutionised the way health and safety offences are prosecuted and the resultant fines. Offending businesses are now much more likely to be receive substantial fines (based upon turnover), imprisonment of an individual, or insolvency of a business.  

    Sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter have also been reviewed with a proposal to increase jail terms for gross negligence manslaughter in line with other manslaughter offences i.e. to increase the term up to as much as 18 years.  

    With these harsher penalties affecting all businesses, this brings into sharp focus, the requirement to properly manage health and safety and compliance in the workplace and not merely pay lip service.  


    Between 2016 and 2017, 137 workers were killed, with top risks being: struck by a moving vehicle (31 per cent); falls from a height (25 per cent); and being struck by a moving object (20 per cent).  

    The most common accidents and injuries in merchants are still related to workplace transport movements i.e. forklift trucks or reversing vehicles striking customers or employees. Further to these falls from height, typically staff falling from the back of flat-bed lorries or falling stock are common place in addition to manual handing injuries and slips and trips.  

    An awareness of these key hazards and the risk management processes to control them is essential to help merchant owners focus attention, investment and training in the proper areas.  


    The bar is rising. More and more builders merchants are going beyond meeting the minimum legal requirements and looking to achieve best practice standards. Focusing not just on the obvious safety hazards but looking further into staff health and welfare.  

    Good merchant owners and managers are now taking extra care to ensure staff welfare in the following areas:  

    Hard hats with chin straps
    As mentioned above, accidents involving drivers falling from the back of lorries still causes concern for merchants. For some years now, we’ve been moving the industry forward, making working on the back of flat-bed lorries safer by encouraging the wearing of hard hats with chin straps when drivers access the lorry bed.  

    Seatbelts on forklift trucks
    It was once adequate to determine forklift truck seatbelt wearing dependent upon a risk assessment and ultimately risk of overturn. Whilst there has been no specific law published stating seatbelts must be worn on forklift trucks, recent events have changed things. A number of recent court cases have set a precedent stating the requirements falls under the general duty to your staff in The Health and Safety at Work etc Act and under the Management of Health and Safety Regulations. It is therefore no longer considered appropriate for a forklift truck driver to operate a forklift without wearing a seatbelt.  

    Consider sun safety in warmer months
    If employees are working outside in the warmer months, exposure to the sun’s UV rays can potentially result in burns or an increased risk of skin cancer. Some merchants are now providing a stock of sunscreen (minimum factor 20) and advising yard staff and drivers to use it.  

    Update essential first-aid equipment
    Having a qualified first-aider and fully-equipped first aid kit is mandatory, but providing an automated external defibrillator (AED) can be potentially lifesaving. We are starting to see merchants introduce these into branches and already we know of one life that has been saved!


    Effective risk management in a merchant is influenced by the behaviour of individuals. The root cause of accidents can often be traced back to unsafe behaviours. Put simply, it’s not enough to provide safe equipment, systems and procedures if the culture doesn’t encourage healthy and safe working.  

    The challenge is how to develop a positive safety culture. Culture develops slowly over time and requires 3 key elements:  

    Implementing working practices and rules for effectively controlling hazards
    Management leading by example with a positive attitude towards risk management and compliance
    The capacity to learn from accidents, near misses and safety performance indicators and bring about continual improvement.  

    By acting safely workers can start to think safely.  


    As we move into a digital age, increased reliance upon IT and cloud-based systems, allows a proactive approach to risk management to be achieved.  

    Unlike traditional IT systems, cloud-based software is very scalable and affordable. Your software provider manages all the hosting and maintenance of the underlying infrastructure, so you can focus on getting the most out of the technology for your merchant. This means there are no large upfront hardware or licensing costs. Instead, you pay a subscription based on the number of users and you’ll always have access to the latest version of the software. As you add branches, your cloud software can grow with you, just add more users as and when you need.  

    Cloud-based management software frees up merchants to adopt a modern proactive approach to health and safety. Its built-in support for mobile technology makes it ideal for connecting and engaging today’s workforce. It brings together all your health and safety documentation in one place and helps you manage it in a way that supports day-to-day operations, adding value to your business.  

    To discover how Southalls can transform safety standards across your business, book a free consultation with one of our sector specialists. You can also find out more about Southalls tailored solutions for Builders Merchants here.  

    To read more about BMF Safety Plus Service click here
    John Southall, CEO at Southalls, BMF Plus Service Provider talks about how , by necessity, builders merchants tend to be more savvy than most when it comes to health and safety

    The Government's Clean Air Zone plans - a breath of fresh air?  

    by Richard Ellithorne, Membership Services Director
    21 August 2018

    Richard EllithorneLast year the Government published plans to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations, which included a requirement for Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leeds and Southampton City Councils to introduce Clean Air Zones from January 2020. The Councils are required to submit a full business case by 15 September 2018 after local consultations this summer.  

    Essentially, the new zones are designed to improve air quality as quickly as possible to comply with the law. In cities where charging is applied, only vehicles that meet current emissions standards – Euro 4 for petrol. Euro 6 for diesel – will not have to pay a daily charge.  Hybrid, electric and LPG engine vehicles will also not have to pay.  

    Clean Air Zones (CAZ) are a particular problem for merchants as, unlike buses, coaches and taxis, merchants have little or no choice but to use diesel HGVs to move heavy materials.  Electric vehicles are not yet a realistic option, though this may change in the future.   

    The BMF has been focussing its campaign to minimise the impact on businesses that do not have Euro VI/6 diesel HGVs, and in some cities, vans.  Lobbying of government ministers and a number of councils tis underway to persuade them not to penalise members unfairly.  The BMF puts the case for more time to enable members to make the necessary operational changes, together with discounts or temporary exemptions for SMEs based in or near a new CAZ, plus funding or tax changes to help replace old lorries, trucks and vans with cleaner, greener models.”  

    In June, Leeds and Birmingham City Councils unveiled their formal public consultations – which the BMF along with other bodies such as the Freight Transport Association are studying closely to assemble their responses.   The presumption is that older polluting HGVs are likely to face £50-£100 daily charges, and in some instances LGV’s will pay £12.50.  

    However, there is some positive news.  It seems that Leeds has listened to the concerns that the BMF expressed.  The proposed boundary of the city’s CAZ has been adjusted and remains a category B, which means that van users will not be affected.  The charge for older HGVs entering the zone will be £50 a day, half that of London.  

    Birmingham’s planned CAZ is also smaller than anticipated, covering the areas inside the Middle Ring Road, but will apply to all private and commercial vehicles.  

    Meanwhile, Southampton is consulting on a city-wide Category B CAZ, which again exempts vans, charging non-compliant HGVs up to £100 a day to enter.  

    The BMF hopes to have more news in time for the BMF Members’ Day Annual Conference on 27 September.  

    Transport Manager CPC  

    BMF Transport Plus providers, Prompt Services, report that the Senior Traffic Commissioner has started a review of the Statutory Guidance and Directions documents which set out how the laws and regulations surrounding operator licensing are interpreted.  

    The most significant expected change is to the requirements of transport managers to maintain their professional knowledge.  Most builders merchants operate on a restricted licence and restricted operator licence holders will be required to demonstrate they have done so by undertaking two days of Certificate of Professional Competence refresher training every five years.    

    Direct Vision Standard

    Transport for London (TfL) is pressing ahead with the introduction of a Direct Vision Standard (DVS) for HGVs to improve safety for vulnerable road users, such as cyclists. The proposed DVS will use a star system to rate HGVs from 0 (lowest) to 5 (highest) based on how much the driver can see directly through their cab windows, as opposed to indirectly through cameras or mirrors.   

    The DVS is due to come into force next year and TfL has now released details of the star ratings for Euro VI HGVs.  However, HGV owners must contact their vehicle’s manufacturer for find out the rating for their particular model.  

    Further work is being carried out on ratings for Euro V and Euro iV vehicles, and we await more information from TfL on these older models.   This article was produced with assistance from Prompt Services, who provide BMF’s Transport Plus service.  

    If you would like to book a FREE transport health check, or to find out more about how BMF Transport Plus could benefit your business, please contact Prompt Training at or 01773 850428, quoting your BMF membership number.  
    BMF Membership Services Director Richard Ellithorne talks about The Government’s Clean Air Zone plans - a breath of fresh air? Last year the Government published plans to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations...

    BMF's top tips for engaging visitors via social media marketing

    by Christine Wall and Hannah Taylor - the BMF's marketing team
    15 August 2018

    Chris Wall and Hannah TaylorIn a recent interview with Pauley Creative, Christine Wall (Marketing and Communications Manager) and Hannah Taylor (Apprentice Marketing Assistant) of the BMF discussed their experience of implementing social media into a strategic marketing plan, giving their thoughts on how to best tackle social media in a way that positively contributes to achieving business goals:  

    1) As a membership organisation, how does social media help to achieve business goals?

    The main objective for us is to share enough valuable content and updates across our social platforms to engage our members and drive traffic to the website. When used with specific call to actions in mind, this increase in traffic should result in a specific goal completion – whether that is to sign up to a networking event or training course, request market data or download resources from our secure member area.

    By taking a ‘multi-channel’ approach to our construction marketing, we aim to improve our online visibility by targeting different audience types across a range of platforms. We are aware that social media forms part of a much broader marketing scope for attracting both new members and nurturing existing ones, so it should be used alongside other engagement tactics.  

    2) How do you ensure social posting has more of a structure?

    As well as including clear ‘Call to Actions’ on the majority of social posts delivered, we also ensure our social coverage remains consistent and structured by using apps such as ‘Hootsuite’ to schedule content well in advance.  We know that members of all ages are very active across our social channels, so apps like Hootsuite enable us to schedule posts for visitors on both desktop and mobile platforms.

    We can target those who are out on the road by providing quicker forms of communication at certain points during the day, with tags and hashtags to prompt further engagement.  Without using a tool that enables us to manage our platforms in one place, the structure of our social scheduling would be a lot harder to control.  

    3) What tactics can you recommend for those looking to improve their social media?

    For those posts designed to bring social media users directly to your website, always provide them with a clear call to action and a link to the most appropriate landing page; this will ensure you make the journey as easy as possible for them.

    Tagging or ‘hashtagging’ also helps to further oil the wheels of engagement, alongside visual media such as an engaging video or an enticing, high quality image.

    Another tactic we recommend is to consider how your social media activity can help to directly support your members. So many of our members require our support, with branch relaunches for example, so for situations where there may not be capacity in a particular magazine, we offer our social media platform support as an alternative. A member needs to simply tag us within a post regarding a branch relaunch and we’ll make sure to retweet the message to our 6000 followers, to help boost visibility of their activity.  

    4) What obstacles have you come across with social media marketing?

    I think with us the social world is constantly shifting, and it can be tricky to know where to invest our time and resource. In particular, we know that Instagram has taken off rapidly so we’ve recently been piloting that alongside our social media channels. Getting to grips with Instagram from a business perspective has been tricky, particularly when it comes to driving traffic directly to your website, due to the lack of linking opportunities.

    Over the last few months, we’ve found Instagram beneficial for humanising our brand, rather than for driving website traffic. As an organisation we’ve used it to keep our members updated during key events such as the VADO Rally this year.  We’ll continue to measure the success of the channel from a brand awareness perspective, by showcasing our passion and interest through key events throughout the year, to ascertain its long-term value to the BMF.

    When scheduling posts across multiple social media channels at the same time it can be difficult to get the optimum image size for each channel.  CANVA and other packages can help with this, but we are still looking for the perfect tool.  

    5) What type of posts would you recommend for engaging with members?

    Consider scheduling posts that will help to educate your target audience, and address key member benefits for those who are yet to take the next step towards joining your organisation. Quality blog content and video distribution, alongside politically-led blog posts obtain the highest readership for us.

    It’s also key to consider your audience groups and where they browse online. We know event-led posts, such as the VADO Rally works best over Facebook, whereas news items and educational blog posts work well on LinkedIn.  To our knowledge, builders merchants’ Branch Managers tend to use Facebook, whereas generally merchant and supplier Directors and Chief Executives are more active on LinkedIn and Twitter. Tailoring your posts to those different audience groups, and working out what type of content will help their everyday job role, is the key to achieving great results. 

    6) What would you say is best to avoid on social media?

    We’d always advise against leaving your social media planning to the last minute. While spontaneity is required to ensure your social media posting remains fresh and relevant, this needs to be structured to ensure your social accounts look professional and current. Scheduling is generally easier on a PC and best done well in advance, which enables us to continue to grow traffic to our website and reduce any last-minute errors or typos from occurring.  

    7) For those asking how do you fit the time in for social media, what would you recommend?

    As the BMF is such an active organisation we are never short of content for social media. Once a week we schedule the daily update posts, as well as the longer-term items within our calendar, such as events and training, which can be booked several months in advance. We also post relevant news as it breaks throughout the week to keep our social media followers updated. Alongside this, we’ll then use Hootsuite to schedule educational-led content across our platforms. One tip we’ve learnt is that you don’t need to keep thinking of new content to create: a lot of it already exists on your website. We’ve managed to reassess what we have and repurpose a lot of content in publications into shorter, informative blog posts. This further extends the shelf-life of what we have and allows us to feed our social followers with a regular stream of relevant information.

    As you’ll be driving social media traffic to your website, always make sure website pages perform well and are continuously updated, as your website will serve as the foundation for all marketing activity carried out. It’s all about working smarter, not harder!  

    Follow the BMF on Twitter on Linked In, Facebook or Instagram
    Or find out more about Pauley Creative, the BMF's digital marketing consultants.
    In a recent interview with Pauley Creative, Christine Wall and Hannah Taylor of the BMF discussed their thoughts on how to best tackle social media in a way that positively contributes to achieving business goals.

    Online training for profit

    by Cortexa, BMF Campus training provider
    31 July 2018

    BMF CampusThe most successful merchant sales staff exude confidence in their knowledge of building materials and systems, and that confidence helps them to build mutual trust with their customers.  They are not only able to give customers the best advice, they also get most out of every transaction by offering them options, add-on selling and upselling.  

    Now it’s easy for every member of the merchant team to increase their base-line knowledge and keep up to date with new products and systems as they come to the market. They just have to get online with BMF Campus, the ultimate product learning system, delivered by the BMF’s partner, Cortexa.

    BMF Campus delivers engaging, bite sized programmes on the features and benefits of individual manufacturers’ products, enabling merchant staff to quickly develop their understanding of a wide range of product and technical issues.  The technical courses are complemented by a range of selling and communication skills courses, all available 24/7 via pc and increasingly by mobile devices.  

    In addition to a specialist ‘Wood Campus’ section, BMF Campus includes content from over 100 of the industry’s leading building materials and accessories brands to keep staff informed of the latest products and trends in every area from foundations to ridge tiles, and heating systems to hot water taps.

    It also offers training in key areas such as Management Skills, Microsoft Office, and Health & Safety Compliance.   

    For individual users, access to the system is available free of charge. However, as many merchants want to manage training for their wider staff team, there are three levels of subscription-based service – all available at a reduced cost for BMF members.  If a staff member uses the system as an individual and their company subsequently upgrades to a subscription service all their initial training records are retained on the system for continuity.  

    With a subscription service, local managers take full control. They can enroll their staff, add new starters and allocate specific programmes to individuals, for example by linking online training to POS campaigns or product targets for sales staff to match specific promotions. Staff can also be encouraged to use the site to discover as much about different product areas as they can.  

    Two of the subscription packages are designed to suit either single site or multi-branch merchants. The Professional Package, which allows up to 30 staff to be registered, is best suited to a single site, while the Enterprise Package provides the facility to manage a network of branches and departments with unlimited numbers of users.  Both subscriptions include “site manager” access enabling merchant managers to run reports and monitor staff activity.  In addition, a recently introduced self select service allows subscribers to access sets of skills courses, with simple monthly payments, with bundles including Customer Service, Health and Safety and Cyber Security.  

    A third, Bespoke, subscription is available for companies who want to include additional content, for example company induction, systems or procedural training.  

    Whichever option you choose, BMF Campus is the simplest way to quickly build a wide range of skills across the company.  Courses typically take between 20 minutes and an hour to complete, with auto-bookmarking helping with the longer ones.  Every course completed is recorded along with the student’s assessment score, providing an individual learning profile for every staff member.  

    To see the current list of products included and to find out how your company can benefit from this service, visit or telephone Cortexa direct on 01933 227226.  

    BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and, with leading British universities, sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degree in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to on-line product knowledge and other specialist skills training.    

    This article appeared in Training Zone in the July 2018 edition of PBM
    Cortexa, BMF training provider, talks about online training for profit: the most successful merchant sales staff exude confidence in their knowledge of building materials and systems, and that confidence helps them to build mutual trust with their cu

    Time for merchants to diversify  

    The BMF’s Intelligent Employment Plus service provider, Halborns, outlines simple steps to encourage greater gender diversity in the workforce.  
    25 July 2018

    BMF Intelligent Employment PlusThe merchant industry offers an array of dynamic and exciting career paths to explore. It has opportunities for a diverse range of skills, experience and knowledge to flourish. However, as a sector we are still struggling to shrug off the ‘macho’ image and the preconceptions and stereotypes that undoubtedly come along with it. It isn’t an entirely unfair label; the sector is represented by roughly 85% men, which is a figure mirrored within the uptake of apprentices on the BMF scheme.  

    While not flattering, such figures should represent an opportunity, not a hindrance. With the BMF looking to double the number of women entering the sector by 2020, this is an opportunity to open up a positive and transparent dialogue, internally and externally, to drive proactive initiatives and break down existing barriers to encourage more women into the sector.  

    With women representing just under half of the available labour force in the UK, and a well documented skills shortage within the merchant sector, fishing in the same pools is leaving a vast amount of promising talent largely untouched. A diverse workforce is more innovative, creative and effective because it draws on experience from different backgrounds instead of reiterating the same ideas because ‘that’s how it has always been done’.  

    So what steps can you take to attract, retain and develop female talent within your business?  

    Champion your female role models. Whether a director, branch manager, sales team, it doesn’t matter. What counts is celebrating and encouraging positive female role models to demonstrate success and longevity within the business, so emerging female talent is exposed to the opportunities available to them to develop their career.  How about a mentoring initiative utilising your current female stars? Partner your new female recruits with strong and experienced female members of your team who can offer advice and guidance throughout their journey, and nurture them through new and exciting opportunities to develop within your business.  

    Embrace flexible working. Caveat; flexible working doesn’t just apply to women or working mums. However, with women less likely to take up a role if it doesn’t fit with their childcare arrangements, embracing flexibility could be a valuable tool to attract talented and skilled females into your business. Variable start/finish times, flexitime, compressed hours, working from home, are all various ways in which you can shun the traditional 9-5 rigidity. Offering flexible working is an enticing proposition that portrays a modern employer brand, and helps attract, engage, motivate and retain talented individuals. Instead of asking ‘why?’, start asking yourself ‘why not?’.  

    Gender doesn’t define a job role. Consciously, or unconsciously, job roles have a habit of attracting a gender label. ‘Men can do that because they’re stronger, women can do that because they’re more organised’, I’m sure we’ve all come across similar attitudes at one time or another. But to remove such attitudes requires a business wide culture shift, from the top down and across all aspects of your operation. Strive to have the right people in the right roles, and centre your focus on enabling employees to do a great job for your customers and your business, irrespective of gender.  

    The task of attracting and retaining female talent within the sector is undoubtedly much wider than these suggestions, but they demonstrate a few steps to take to narrow the glaring disparity between women and men as they are currently represented. Open and honest conversations need to be had, and will no doubt require a degree of introspection, however the more businesses can share their experiences and struggles, and also shout about their success, the easier it will be to take positive action.   

    Taking positive action is also likely to result in a more equitable working environment. Sectors with a tradition of gender disparity are more likely to find themselves defending sex discrimination and sexual harassment claims, which are often highly sensitive and difficult claims to navigate your way through. As such, the need for flexible and proactive legal advice from the outset is imperative. The BMF Intelligent Employment Plus service does just that.  It provides unlimited, fixed cost general employment advice from two commercially minded employment lawyers, who are experts at working within your sector. You also get access to Halborn’s bank of our up-to-date, contemporary and commercially robust employment law documents to support you throughout the employment journey.    

    This article was supplied by Charles McHugh of Halborns, the employment lawyers supplying the BMF Intelligent Employment Plus service. For further details of any of the issues discussed in this article or the BMF Intelligent Employment Plus service please contact Halborns at or call 0115 718 0333.  

    This article featured in the Business Helpdesk in the July 2018 edition of BMJ.
    The BMF’s Intelligent Employment service provider, Halborns, outlines simple steps to encourage greater gender diversity in the workforce.

    Team spirit in merchant industry

    by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
    24 July 2018

    John NewcombThe merchant industry is very much a people business, we love to network and what better place than a conference? Elsewhere in this journal you can read a great deal about this year’s All Industry Conference hosted by NMBS, which everyone attending agreed was an excellent event.   

    By alternating the annual Conference between BMF and NMBS we raise the bar every year.  In 2019 the baton passes back to BMF.  Our last Conference, in Budapest, has been shortlisted as one of the best by any Trade Association in 2017. Next year’s will be even better, and we are already off to a flying start.  

    We announced the 2019 Conference location – the stunning and historic coastal city of Dubrovnik - at the end of this year’s event.  Just one week later we had sold or pre-booked 80% of the merchant delegate places and 75% of supplier packages.  

    We continuously look at ways to make Conference even better, but some things can’t be improved, like our host for 2019.  TV presenter Gethin Jones gained 100% approval rating from attendees in 2017 and we had no hesitation in inviting him back for a second time.  

    Find out more about Dubrovnik and our accommodation at the 5 Star Sun Gardens Hotel, visit  

    Football’s coming home  

    The All Industry Conference is almost a year away, but there is another fantastic opportunity for merchants and suppliers to get together at BMF Members’ Day Conference and Awards Dinner on 26 & 27 September

    This takes place at another great venue, St George’s Park, the Football Association’s national football centre, which plays a major role in developing successful teams including World Cup and European success for England’s Under-20 and Under-19 teams respectively, and third place in the 2015 World Cup for England’s Women’s team.  At the time of writing the men’s team is doing pretty well too, not least by delighting supporters with six World Cup goals against Panama.  

    26 September is devoted to our annual Golf Tournament and other social activities, including an opportunity to experience the world-class training facilities and find out what it would be like to play for England.  

    The team spirit generated continues in our Business Conference the following day, which is hosted by sports presenter Ray Stubbs and where Laura Bassett, of England’s women’s squad, is one of the speakers. Other speakers include Andy Street, ex-John Lewis boss and now the first Mayor of the West Midlands and Joe Lynam the award-winning BBC business journalist.  After presenting, Andy and Joe will also take part in a Q&A session on business and the economy.  With workshops on mental resilience and confidence building, market resilience and a GDPR/technology survey, Members’ Day is set to inform, inspire and entertain.  

    Secure your place here or contact  

    Rallying round  

    The social side of merchanting is again evident in the Vado Rally which has established itself as the industry’s prime charity fundraising vehicle (pun intended). Introduced by Aaron Frogley four years ago, the Rally has raised well over £300,000 since its inception.  

    This year I joined the BMF team to experience four exhausting, but rewarding days as we donned fancy dress and drove our customised car (bought for £500) through seven countries and 1300 miles undertaking a variety of daft challenges on the way.  I’m proud to say we were this year’s highest fund raiser, contributing £17.5K to a projected total of £100,000 which will be shared between the Rainy Day Trust and Variety – the children’s charity.  

    Congratulations to everyone involved and, in particular, to Aaron for getting the rally on the road.    

    This article appeared in the July/August 2018 edition of Builders' Merchants News (BMN)
    John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about team spirit and how the merchant industry is very much a people business. We love to network and what better place than a conference?

    Trade Supplier Apprenticeship attracts new talent to merchanting 

    By Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
    17 July 2018

    IRichard Ellithornef you are looking to bring new talent into your business the new TradeSupplier Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard could not have come at a better time.

    This is an apprenticeship that has been written by BMF members, in conjunction with members of the Electrical Distributors Association, specifically to meet the needs of our industry.  It covers both warehouse and counter training to give apprentices a broader base of skills and knowledge.  Its main aim is to introduce new recruits to merchanting, but it’s also a valuable resource to upskill existing employees at an early stage of their career.   

    Trade Supplier is a comprehensive 12-15 month training programme that looks at all operational and departmental areas of the merchant business. It is delivered onsite in the workplace, which ensures appropriate training for individual organisations, and is assessed by a third party ensuring robust quality control.  

    Richard Ellithorne, Member Services Director of the BMF, says the new apprenticeship standard will help merchants promote the industry amongst a wider range of high calibre candidates.  

    “Historically the merchant industry has lagged behind other industries in promoting career opportunities for new entrants and we are looking to change that,” said Richard. “The BMF exhibited at a number of national and regional events this Spring attended by large numbers of school and college leavers, their careers advisers and their parents.  We are making it clear that merchanting offers a wide range of careers and the Trade Supplier Apprenticeship is a great stepping stone to learn the business basics which will enable them to progress quickly up their chosen career ladder, whether that is within branch management or in other areas such as finance, HR or health & safety.”  

    The Trade Supplier Apprenticeship covers:  

    - Overview of the builders’ merchanting sector and their organisation’s role within it
    - How goods and services flow between manufacturer/supplier and the merchant’s customer
    - Recognising the products, services and language used by their customers
    - Serving customers and understanding their needs
    - Taking orders and deliveries
    - Communicating confidently with internal and external customers
    - Effective listening and identifying specialist customer needs  

    The new apprenticeship is available through BMF Apprenticeship Plus, a comprehensive service that can handle everything from the recruitment of apprentices, to contracting with the most appropriate training provider and managing the apprenticeship. Working with BMF Apprenticeship Plus means that your HR resources are not tied up in administration which makes the logistics of the whole process simple.  We can even undertake complex levy administration on behalf of larger members or employ apprentices on behalf of non-levy payers.  

    BMF Apprenticeships Plus Operations Manager, Carmen Daley, who is responsible for recruiting apprentices on the merchants’ behalf has found the new apprenticeship standard generating a lot of new interest.   “As well as giving merchants a tool to introduce new talent, we are also finding that Trade Supplier is attracting candidates (and their parents!) who might not previously have considered the industry.  The formalisation of an entry level qualification and its assessment by a third party is very appealing to them,” said Carmen.  

    To find out more about BMF Apprenticeship Plus and the Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard, please contact Carmen Daley on 07496 370224 or    

    This article appeared in the June 2018 edition of Professional Builders’ Merchant (PBM) in the Training Zone

    Trade Supplier Apprenticeship attracts new talent to merchanting by Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director. If you are looking to bring new talent into your business the new Trade Supplier Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard could not have

    Clean Air Zones in English cities  

    by Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs Manager
    10 July 2018

    Clean Air ZonesIn spring 2017 Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs Manager, reported in One Voice magazine how the BMF was lobbying to mitigate proposals on air pollution that will adversely affect merchants and suppliers. Below is an update on further policy developments, what the issues are, and what the BMF is doing on behalf of its members.  


    The EU Ambient Air Quality Directive 2008 sets legally-binding limits for air pollutants such as particulate matter and nitrogen dioxide that affect public health. In recent years, the Government has failed to bring down air pollution to within legal limits and has lost three court cases as a result.    

    In July 2017, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published its latest plan to tackle roadside nitrogen dioxide concentrations. This plan set out action needed nationally and locally towards emissions from transport.  

    The Greater London Authority and Birmingham, Nottingham, Derby, Leeds and Southampton City Councils must introduce Clean Air Zones from January 2020. Another 23 local authorities are forecast to exceed the legal limit in the next few years. They are required to devise plans to limit nitrogen dioxide within the shortest possible time. Councils should have lodged interim plans with DEFRA by 31 March and - after local consultation this summer - must submit final plans by 31 December 2018.  

    Clean Air Zones  

    To comply with EU rules and court judgements, DEFRA has produced air quality plans for English towns and cities, showing how ministers intend to improve air quality as quickly as possible. A network of Clean Air Zones is the main proposal and the first cities being compelled are Leeds, Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham and Southampton. Bristol, Cardiff, Oxford, Manchester, Liverpool and other cities are due to follow.  

    Restrictions on access for the most polluting petrol and diesel vehicles are planned, ie older buses, coaches, taxis, lorries and vans. Vehicles will be required to meet the Euro 6 standard or face a daily charge. Private cars and motorcycles will be exempt. The zones are expected to come into force at the start of 2020.  

    The question of whether local authorities can charge drivers to enter is disputed. Environment Secretary, Michael Gove, has decided charging is the option of last resort, not the first choice. This is a win for BMF lobbying, but it may ultimately end up in the High Court again.   

    What is the BMF doing?  

    The BMF has been working on air quality, Clean Air Zones, and the demonisation of diesel users for over two years. During that time, the BMF have:  

    • been involved in three DEFRA consultations, contributing to two from the Mayor of London and one by Leeds City Council
    • made representations to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Environment Secretary and Transport Secretary
    • attended a parliamentary debate and lobbied the MPs who spoke
    • submitted views to four House of Commons Select Committees
    • met councillors and officials from the local councils involved and
    • participated in fringe events at three political party conferences.  

    In February 2018, the BMF had a letter published in the Daily Express that urged Whitehall and municipal leaders to proceed with caution, because most BMF members have no choice but to use diesel HGVs. Other associations signed the BMF’s letter, including the Freight Transport Association, British Vehicle Rental & Leasing Association, and the National Federation of Builders.   


    Last November, four parliamentary committees conducted an unprecedented joint inquiry into air quality. The BMF submitted a 2,300-word paper to speak up for merchants who use diesel HGVs. Face-to-face lobbying was done to support the arguments the BMF made, including with local Government, Transport and Treasury ministers who had to appear before MPs.  

    In March, these committees published their report in which the BMF was specifically mentioned. MPs endorsed the BMF’s view that current timescales for Clean Air Zones leave insufficient time for small businesses to prepare. They recommended ministers should investigate the feasibility of providing small businesses with more time, or resources, to upgrade vehicles. This is the first time in the BMF’s 110 year history that the BMF has been named in this way.   


    The BMF is talking to local authorities to learn what their plans are. The BMF have been to see Leeds and Birmingham City Councils and Derby is next. The BMF want to persuade councils not to penalise its members unfairly and there are grounds to be optimistic. Options discussed include:  

    • tapered charges against the worst polluters: Euro 4 vehicles pay more than Euro 5
    • exemptions for merchants if receiving deliveries before 7am from suppliers
    • councils bidding for money from Whitehall to offer as grants to retrofit vans.  

    The key question is what happens if our members can demonstrate that (by January 2020) they have taken reasonable steps to comply, but that it was not possible to do so - perhaps for technical reasons, or no suitable vehicles were available to buy or lease?   


    Unlike buses, coaches and taxis, merchants have little or no choice but to use diesel HGVs to move heavy materials. Electric vehicles are not yet a realistic option. This may change as manufacturers make electric HGVs capable of carrying heavy loads without a loss in performance or payload.  

    The BMF cannot stop Clean Air Zones being implemented. The best to hope for is flexibility to help businesses most affected with:   more time to enable members to make the necessary operational changesdiscounts or temporary exemptions for SMEs based in or near a Zonefunding or tax changes to help replace old lorries, trucks and vans with cleaner, greener models.  

    The BMF hope to have more news in time for BMF Members’ Day Annual Conference on 27 September. 

    Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs Manager, provides an update on Clean Air Zone policy developments, what the issues are, and what the BMF is doing on behalf of its members.

    Angela SouthallNine cost-saving health and safety tips for builders merchants  

    by Angela Southall, Director and Co-Founder of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, offers advice to keep you sane, and safe  
    3 July 2018

    Saving time and money is imperative when you are operating in a competitive market. But it is not at all easy to combine cost-cutting with good health and safety practice. After all, overlook key health and safety requirements and you will find yourself vulnerable to all manner of fines and civil claims.  

    It can be difficult to find cheaper health and safety solutions without compromising on safety but from over a decade of experience of working with merchants, we’ve put together a few money-saving tips:  

    1. Decrease your PAT frequency  

    Portable appliance testing (PAT) is an essential part of electrical safety for business merchants. However, the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has estimated that employers are wasting more than £30m per annum on unnecessary testing.  

    Items that are in heavy use or exposed to the elements e.g. portable hand tools may require 6 monthly portable appliance testing but office based equipment like desktop computers and VDU screen would not require testing at all if double insulated or, if not, then testing only 5 yearly would be adequate providing they receive a visual inspection every 2-4 years.  

    2. Consult on PPE and bulk buy  

    When it comes to saving on health and safety, buying items in bulk can help. It is also important to consult with staff to ensure items are fully fit for purpose - this can be a particular issue for female workers and those workers who are at the edges of sizes.   A number of merchants have seen reductions in lost time accidents through the provision of gloves to all yard staff, reducing hand injuries.  

    3. Conduct independent racking inspections  

    Independent racking inspections are not legally required, but would be recommended if you have a significant amount of racking. Alternatively, in house monthly visual checks on the condition of racking checking for knocks, deflection, overloading or poorly loaded stocked can be conducted in house. Safety software such as Safety Cloud can manage monthly inspections conducted by managers, and these can be complimented by six-monthly audits by companies such as Southalls.  

    4. Implement E-learning training systems  

    Whether for day zero induction training or ongoing refresher training, Southalls E-learning on Safety Cloud ensures staff get up to speed on essential safety training such as fire safety awareness and manual handling without the time and expensive of face-to-face training providers. Further merchant specific training including, racking awareness, work at height, powerline safety, workplace transport and banksman training can all be conducted through Safety Cloud.  

    5. Accident investigation and Accident Statistics  

    If an accident does occur, it is imperative that you can learn from it as quickly as possible. By bringing on a qualified consultant, you can minimise your reputational damage, chance of prosecution or enforcement action and implement practical preventative measures to prevent a re-occurrence. The cost of management time eaten up in an accident investigation can be reduced if a suitably experienced and qualified consultant is brought in from the start.  

    6. Be examination savvy  

    Avoiding unnecessary examinations of lifting equipment is a quick way to save money, so every business-owner should understand which reviews are legally required, and which are not. Pallet trucks are not defined as lifting equipment under the Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) and therefore they do not require a thorough examination.   Sometimes through examinations are duplicated by both an insurer and another service provider. Thereby unnecessary doubling of cost.   Where pedestrian lifting cages are used with a forklift, nominating designated forklifts to be used with the lifting cage that are then thoroughly examined six monthly is more cost-effective than simply thoroughly examining all lift trucks on the site every six monthly.  

    7. Legionella Sampling  

    Occasionally we come across merchants paying for independent Legionella water sampling, system cleaning or testing of water temperatures at taps on a rolling contract. If you operate on a domestic scale system then this expenditure is completely unnecessary.  

    8. Asbestos overkill  

    The Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations require merchants to assess and manage the risk of asbestos. This is achieved through the undertaking of an asbestos survey and complimented by an asbestos management plan. There is no legal requirement to re-survey on an annual basis, only to review the survey and management plan you have in place.  

    9. Equipment and machinery maintenance  

    Keeping equipment and machinery maintained saves money on callouts or breakages, and reduces the subsequent downtime. Using a system like Southalls Safety Cloud manages this process efficiently through automatic email reminders when maintenance tasks are due.  

    If you would like to discuss any of the issues in this article or any other health and safety matter, please contact Southalls on 0345 257 4015 or e-mail Our team of highly-qualified and experienced consultants will be happy to answer your questions.  

    Southalls specialise in helping builders merchants stay on top of their health and safety legal requirements, keeping their staff and customers safe, and their businesses compliant. For information about the BMF Safety Plus service or to discuss anyof the issues in this article, please, get in touch with the Southalls team on 0345 257 4015 or    

    To take part in the next BMF Health and Safety Forum click here

    This article appeared in the Helpdesk in the June 2018 edition of BMJ
    Angela Southall, Director and Co-Founder of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, offers advice to keep you sane, and safe.

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found

    No content found