Where does my Rainy Day Trust donation go?

12 February 2019 
Bryan Clover, CEO of the Rainy Day Trust, on how crucial funding our industry charity is  

Rainy Day Trust

How do you spend my money?
Who benefits or is it just gathering dust somewhere in a bank account?

I get asked those questions all the time and they deserve an honest answer.  There was a time when the Rainy Day Trust focussed solely on grant-making, either one off grants to meet an immediate need, or ongoing grants to help people over the longer term.  When your washing machine breaks and you can’t afford a new one, we can replace it, but if your kids need school uniforms a few months later you still won’t be able to afford them because the underlying problem hasn’t changed; you still can’t afford them because you don’t have sufficient cash.  What we do now is deliver a series of programmes of support that aim to tackle that underlying problem and help you to help yourself.   

How much money you have is a double-sided coin – you either need to earn more or reduce what you routinely spend. We help people do both of those things.  We can help you earn more by upskilling or re-training you. We can pay for courses or help you with CV writing, to make your application that bit better than the other guy’s. We help apprentices during their training and improve pass rates, giving them a skill for life.   

To reduce your outgoings we can offer you free debt advice, which will help you re-schedule your debt making it more affordable; importantly it can help prevent bankruptcy which can have a massive impact on your future potential – try getting a mobile phone contract when you’ve been made bankrupt or have a CCJ against you. Our winter fuel package not only pays £250 direct to your energy supplier so that you can go into the winter knowing that you can turn the heating on, but it also pays for a boiler and heating system service and installs a corrosion inhibitor. This can reduce your heating bills by 10-15%.

The housing advice, free counselling and free legal advice can reduce the stress and anxiety that you may be feeling and so reduce the risk of pressures at work, so making you more ‘employable’ because you are in a better place mentally. 

So what does your donation buy? 

£35 pays for 5 telephone counselling sessions, £50 pays for an hour’s legal advice, £80 buys the school uniform for a child, £120 a new fridge, £300 a new washing machine, £460 a new laptop and MS Office for an apprentice. £1,200 pays for the annual license of our welfare benefits checker that helps hundreds of people every year. 

But that just talks about what we can offer, not what we actually spend the money on. Each and every year we help hundreds of home improvement employees, past and present, through all of our programmes. Last year we helped one man who had lost his wife at a very young age. We were able to help with new white goods and school uniforms, debt advice, bereavement counselling and much more. Another applicant asked us for help with rent arrears which had built up because of long-term illness. By intervening with the landlord we literally got the keys back as he was being evicted. We kept the roof over his head. A young lad had left a young offenders’ institution and while in there had discovered that he had a talent for carpentry. We were able to buy him a set of tools so that he could practice at home for his apprenticeship and now according to his mentor he has turned a corner because he loves what he does.  

But just like your personal money, what we don’t spend the donations on is just as important. We DON’T waste it on swanky London offices and huge rents. We don’t have a massive staff to pay salaries for – there are now three of us, one full time, one on 4 days a week and our new Fundraising Manager on 3 days a week. We don’t spend a fortune on marketing and advertising because we work closely with the trade publications to get free articles whenever we can. 

This year, once again, we will be running a budget deficit because the number of people that we help is growing rapidly – we spend three times as much now on helping people as we did three years ago.  And we expect that growth rate to continue. Which, in turn, means that we have to be even cleverer when it comes to saving money and raise more to meet the need.  There’s the rub – MEET THE NEED! Not want, need. I’ve said it time and again – having to make a choice about whether you heat your home or eat is something that simply shouldn’t happen in 2019 Britain but it does. I have seen homes where there is ice on the INSIDE of the windows in the morning because it is so cold.  This person wasn’t lazy, or drinking. They were in their eighties and were desperately trying to survive on a pathetic pension.  But don’t worry, it’ll never happen to you, will it?

Contact the Rainy Day Trust on 0203 192 0486, via or
Bryan Clover, CEO of the Rainy Day Trust, explains how crucial funding our industry charity is - who benefits and how the money is spent, such as RDT support programmes.

Sharing the knowledge with BMF Forums

5 February 2019  

Richard EllithorneBMF’s Membership Services Director, Richard Ellithorne explains how BMF Forums are adding value to Members’ businesses  

The BMF’s mission is to help members to excel at providing materials and services for building a better future. In line with this the BMF is working hard to create personalised packages of value-added services to meet individual members’ needs more effectively.  

The development of BMF Forums over the past four years is just one example of how we are developing services to engage members in a variety of sectors and job functions.  Since the first BMF Forum was launched in 2015 the creation of range of such targeted events has played a key role in engaging with members.   

We currently run fifteen Forums – including the latest which focuses specifically on Brexit. These service a wide variety of interest groups and play a major part in broadening the BMF’s relevance and appeal to different sectors of the industry by highlighting the Federation’s value to a wide range of professionals operating within its membership base.  

BMF Forums excel at sharing best practice, knowledge and information for our members. Because they are geared to specific audiences, they provide a unique platform to discuss the latest and most relevant issues for each group. Furthermore, input from members at the various Forums gives them a powerful voice outside the industry. Providing members with an outlet to voice their views and concerns enables the BMF to hear from them directly, which in turn assists our campaigning work to inform government and influence legislative policy on behalf of members. 

There are currently six sector specific Forums: Plumbing & Heating, Timber, Roofing & Insulation, Decorative Products, Civils & Drainage and Bricks & Blocks. Two of which, Plumbing & Heating and Timber, are accompanied by their own newsletter produced both in digital and hard copy for each event. 

To encourage a wider network of employees within member organisation to engage directly both with BMF and their peers, we also run eight function-specific Forums aimed at departmental managers: Branch Manager, Finance, HR, Health & Safety, Transport, Marketing, Technology and Supplier & Service.  

Each forum aims to meet twice a year and is designed to provide valuable information that attendees can take back to their businesses. They are free for members to attend except the Branch Managers Forum which is a chargeable two-day event. While they are facilitated by the BMF, they are very much run by and for our members. Each forum is chaired by a BMF member with expertise in that area and he or she will be instrumental in setting the day’s agenda. We may also undertake an advance mini survey of a hot topic being presented at the Forum, with the survey results revealed at the event. This helps to ensure that the issues being discussed will have the widest relevance to those attending.  

For example, at a recent Branch Manager Forum a key topic of discussion was Fraud Prevention and Vigilance. This helped merchant members to share the various security threats they had faced and discuss how to prevent them in the future.  Another value-add comes from the targeted delegate packs created for attendees of specific forums. For example, merchants attending the Finance Forum receive our annual Key Performance Indicators report, while those attending the HR Forum take away our annual Remuneration Survey report.  

The BMF’s aim is to increase the value we add to our members’ businesses through greater segmentation of our membership base – ensuring that the services we provide for each member are those that are the most relevant to their business.  Our sector and functional Forums covering industry hot topics and legislative updates play a key role in this.   

Last year a total of 1,072 delegates attended 23 BMF Forum events. If you would like to join them, you can find out more about any BMF Forum at, or for other benefits of BMF Membership contact Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director at or call 02476 854980 .

This article appeared in the January 2019 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
The BMF’s mission is to help members to excel at providing materials and services to build a better future. It's working hard to create personalised packages of value-added services to meet members’ needs.

Engaging with members–Brexit, building materials careers & diversity

by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
29 January 2019 

John NewcombEvery new year brings a fresh start. For the BMF this means building on one of the most successful years in our history, which was topped by being named Best Trade Association in the Association Excellence Awards.

During the first half of the year we will be driving the implementation of the Building Excellence programme, announced at Members Day last September, through which we aim to help our members excel at providing materials and services. Leading up to the BMF All Industry Conference in Dubrovnik in June – which also has the theme Building Excellence – we will be undertaking a detailed analysis of our membership and their current patterns of engagement with their trade body.   

Our objective is to ensure that everyone gets the most from their membership, with services and support that are most relevant to their business. To do so, first we must understand why some companies are more engaged than others at present and, following on from this, tailor specific packages of services to support different “clusters” of members.   

European focus  

The impact of Brexit, in whatever form it takes, has been an ongoing concern for many members. With so many unknowns surrounding the process, the BMF ran a half-day Forum for members on 23 January, which considered the impact of Brexit on VAT and Customs & Excise, on UK timber supply and building materials generally as well as the wider UK economy.   

Europe is hugely important to our sector and the possibilities arising from the country’s new trading environment will no doubt feature again in a number of presentations and discussions at the BMF All industry Conference in June.  

The UK may be loosening its ties with Europe, but at the BMF we are strengthening our own European links as we believe it is even more important than ever to work more closely with our European colleagues and trade bodies.  This is why I am personally delighted that 2019 will be my first full year as President of UFEMAT, the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufacturers.   

One of my main objectives is to create a European Merchant Group to promote greater exchange of knowledge and experience.  In line with this, we have invited our first speaker from UFEMAT to take part in our industry Forum at the BMF All Industry Conference.  I will be taking a group of merchants to the UFEMAT Conference in Montreux, Switzerland in October and we will be including merchants from Belgium in our Young Merchants Group annual overseas trip, this year to Knauf’s facility in Toulouse, France.  We are also arranging two benchmarking visits for European merchants to the UK, with a focus on Heavyside in March and Lightside in October, the latter involving our colleagues in FEST, which represents the national associations of wholesalers engaged in the distribution of plumbing and heating products across Europe.  


This year will also see the relaunch of our industry recruitment website, rebranded and no longer focusing solely on youth recruitment. The relaunch follows policy research with members who told us they wanted the BMF to help promote the widest possible range of job opportunities in our industry, fostering diversity and inclusion, helping members to recruit a workforce from a wide range of backgrounds and experience.    

This article appeared in the January 2019 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
Every new year brings a fresh start. For the BMF this means building on one of the most successful years in our history, which was topped by being named Best Trade Association in the Association Excellence Awards

Building blocks of knowledge: online training for merchants  

by Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
22 January 2019

BMF Building BlocksOnline learning is a powerful and cost-effective way to take in and retain a large amount of information, making it well suited to product and technical training. Some 80% of merchant staff in the UK have access to online learning systems, which are used to build skills and knowledge. The BMF’s latest training offering, which can be delivered either via BMF Campus of via the merchants’ own Learning Management System, will add significantly to this knowledge base and will be accessible from work or from home.  

The new BMF Building Blocks series is an online training programme designed to replace the MOL distance learning workbook series which was retired in 2018. While MOLs had their day as a popular learning form, they had dated both in terms of content and mode of delivery. This provides the BMF and their e-learning partner, Cortexa, with an excellent opportunity to create new rich media content and to collaborate with BMF’s supplier members to ensure the latest technologies and techniques are included in the programme.  

The Building Blocks series is designed to introduce apprentices and other new starters to the intricacies of life in a builders’ merchant. It starts with foundation blocks that cover planning, regulations and structural products, moves on to further blocks that cover key product groups and ultimately builds into a comprehensive guide to the industry and products stocked and sold by every type of merchant.  

Fully accredited

Each multi-media training Block combines a range of video, animations and interactive content to bring the subjects to life. The content is further reinforced with programmed learning in the form of downloadable reading/reference material and weblinks. Each e-learning Block includes knowledge checks and practical coursework and is completed with a final assessment. Successful completion will earn credits for the learner towards an online Award.  

Cortexa is an approved centre for Occupational Awards and within two years BMF Building Blocks will be a fully accredited online programme that will define the standard of product training in the merchant industry. Twenty new e-learning Blocks or units are planned for introduction during this time and by the end of 2019, there will be sufficient Blocks available for students to combine to create an accredited Merchant Award, whereby candidates have to complete at least 4 Blocks and pass a final exam to achieve the standard.   

Early Programmes

The units will be released in three phases. Phase 1 will comprise seven Blocks, with the first three ready to launch. They are:  

  • An Introduction to Residential Construction Part 1: Covering planning, regulations, groundwork and the masonry elements of house building. This Block is sponsored by the Concrete Blocks Association.
  • An Introduction to Residential Construction Part 2: Covering timber in construction, joinery basics, roofing and fixings. This block is sponsored by the TTF and a number of Supplier Members.
  • Heating and Hot Water Comfort: Covering Central heating principles and design, regulations, heating and environmental controls, hot water storage and renewable energy sources. Sponsorship packages for this Block are available.  

Phase 1 will be completed with Building Blocks on Below Ground Drainage, Buildings Insulation, Cement and Plaster and Customer Care.
Phase 2 will comprise units on Bricks and Mortar, Doors, Windows and Stairs, Landscaping, Underfloor Heating, Roofwork, Above Ground Drainage and Bathrooms.
Phase 3 will cover Aggregates and Blocks, Lightside Materials, Tube Fittings and Flanges, Plastic Pipes and Components, Plumbers Brassware and Commercial Practice.  

One of the biggest challenges with any training content is keeping it up to date, so the Building Blocks programme aims to future proof the content by forming partnership groups and sponsor opportunities for BMF Supplier Members looking to get involved.  

If you would like to get involved in the BMF Building Blocks programme – either as a learner or content supplier - contact Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director on 02476 854980, or email  

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.  

This article appeared in the January 2019 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
Online learning is a powerful and cost-effective way to take in and retain a large amount of information, making it well suited to product and technical training. The BMF’s latest training offering will add significantly to this knowledge base.

Who needs a stiff upper lip?  The impact of stress and anxiety

by Bryan Clover, CEO of The Rainy Day Trust
15 January 2019  

Stress and anxietyWhy do we do it?

Why do we struggle on in silence when simply reaching out for help can make a world of difference? Is it stigma? Is it pride? Is it a bloke thing? It doesn’t really matter why, it matters because the effect of stress and anxiety in their various forms has a huge impact on our lives, and as importantly on our livelihoods. On your livelihoods.  

Awareness of mental health issues is growing thankfully and more people are asking for help

The big problems like PTSD, bipolar disorder or ADHD grab the headlines, but it’s good old-fashioned stress that is most widespread. The pressure of work, family problems, bereavement, finding sufficient work all add up to a pretty unhealthy atmosphere.  If our brains are diverted from the day job, we don’t function properly and our work is affected. That can lead to some pretty one-sided conversations with managers which, ironically, just make everything worse. We start worrying about losing our job which can be incredibly self-destructive.  It rapidly becomes a vicious downward spiral.  

Let me give you a very personal example, drawn on my own experience. In October 2017, our 13 year old daughter started getting headaches. We took her to the doctor and they told us not to worry as it was just puberty-related migraines. We went on holiday to Spain. Twelve hours after arriving we were in A&E. Eight hours later we were in intensive care, and a few hours after that they did an emergency operation to save her life to remove part of a massive brain tumour. Fast forward through a month in the Bristol Royal Children’s Hospital, and 6 weeks at home, and Evie died on 11 Jan 18.  The emotional trauma that we went through, and are still going through, has led to an enormous amount of stress.  So much so that many months later I am still not functioning properly; my brain is constantly questioning what happened and asking ‘Why?’. I’m exhausted all the time and don’t sleep.  Now what that leads to is without the support of our GP and months of counselling, I wouldn’t be functioning at all.  It affects work, home life, everything.  But I recognised early on that something was wrong and asked for help. 

There is help out there.

All you have to do is ask.  The Rainy Day Trust doesn’t just give financial support, although that in itself can help alleviate those money worries, especially if you are ill or off work.  We can also offer free telephone counselling, free debt advice, an hour’s free legal advice, housing advice and support for those affected by cancer.  From a mental health perspective, arranging a face to face counselling session can be difficult fitting in with work commitments, so telephone counselling is really flexible.  We give 5 free 30 minute sessions over the telephone. If at the end of that you want more, just ask. Or if you need face to face counselling we can pay for that if you can’t afford it or can’t find a charity that can give it locally.

So take it form me, you don’t need to keep a stiff upper lip. You don’t need to bottle it all up and pretend the problem doesn’t exist, because you know what? If you do, it’s going to build up and bite you in the backside sometime sooner or later. Tackle it now and get your life back. Take it from someone who has experienced the most horrific year possible, you don’t have to deal with stress or mental health issues alone, and neither should you.

Take a look at our website, or give us a call on 0203 192 0486. We are here to help because we care.
Why do we do it? Why do we struggle on in silence when simply reaching out for help can make a world of difference? Is it stigma? Is it pride? Is it a bloke thing? It doesn’t really matter why, it matters because the effect of stress and anxiety ...

BMF training for suppliers  

by BMF Training Coordinator, Paige Godsell
8 January 2019

BMF training for suppliersMany BMF Training Courses are equally relevant to our supplier members as well as builders’ merchants.  Others are specifically designed for supplier members.  For the first time, we have produced a dedicated BMF Supplier Training Prospectus detailing the full range of over 60 training courses available for this member group.  

The new BMF Supplier Training Prospectus covers training programmes in three key areas, Management & Leadership, Sales and Transport.  It also includes a training Roadmap that highlights courses that work well together and charts various paths that will help an individual to progress from an apprenticeship to senior management.  

The new Prospectus features a number of specialist courses developed purely for supplier members including “Selling into Merchants”, “Developing a Sales Strategy” and “Supplier Negotiation”.  Other new courses featured include “Quicker, Better Meetings”, “Key Account Management”, “Sales Coaching and Performance Management” and “How a House is Built”.  

Each course is clearly described, outlining the purpose and objectives as well as the staff who would benefit most from its content, and further development opportunities for those attending.  Importantly, they are designed to be flexible in the way they can be delivered, with open courses that can be held at regional venues such as the growing number of BMF Regional Centres of Excellence, or delivered “in-company” as a truly bespoke service.  

Details of the BMF Apprenticeship Plus offer, with options for both smaller companies and larger levy-paying organisations through the BMF’s Apprenticeship Training Agency or its Levy Management Service, are also contained in the Prospectus.  

To get a copy of the Prospectus or find out more about any aspect of BMF training, contact or on 02456 854980, or click here to view the courses online.

This article appeared in the December 2018 edition of Professional Builders’ Merchant (PBM)
Many BMF Training Courses are equally relevant to our supplier members as well as builders’ merchants. Others are specifically designed for supplier members. For the first time, we have produced a dedicated BMF Supplier Training Prospectus ...

Women in construction

2 January 2019
By Sophie Beard, Account Executive, MRA Marketing

Sophie Beard, MRA MarketingThe construction industry has come a long way over the years in reflecting diversity. However, there is still a long way to go – particularly in encouraging women to work in the sector.  

Women play an important part in construction, but the industry needs to do more to make construction an attractive and exciting place for women to work. A good place to start is by listening to women to find out what they value. A recent survey on ‘Women in Construction’ organised by CIPR Construction and Property Special Interest Group – which I took part in - clearly identified key emerging challenges, which need to be addressed.  

What is clear from the survey is that these challenges can be overcome, particularly as an overwhelming majority of respondents to the survey (77%) felt proud to work within construction. It’s a sentiment that is becoming more and more evident. Take the recent ‘Women in Merchanting’ Round Table Debate for example. Organised by Builders’ Merchants News and hosted by the BMF, 13 leading women in the industry discussed how the industry can attract and retain more female employees. The women applauded some great aspects of the industry and discussed how to work together to push the industry along a more diverse path. However, a recurring theme within the CIPR survey and the Round Table is that our industry doesn’t ‘shout’ loud enough about the great things it is doing and the exciting opportunities it offers.  

Flexible working is another key area that needs to be addressed in order to attract more women in construction. Only 29% of respondents agreed flexible hours is a real option in the sector. To support women, the industry needs to promote and encourage flexible working to allow a balance of home and work life. People, not just women, value flexibility and understanding, so to get the best out of our employees the industry needs to move with the times and take the new working life on board. The next generation of workers will simply expect flexible working and any roles not offering this will be at a disadvantage.  

With existing low numbers of women in construction there are few accessible mentors for women coming into the sector. Ongoing support to women reflects a challenge in the survey results, as 80% of respondents said they lacked mentors and sponsors. To guide and help women through construction we need to share our knowledge and experience of the industry with one another. This could be through a networking group, which 63% of the women taking part in this survey felt is absent from their organisation.  

Construction is becoming more diverse, but this survey shows there is still a long way to go. This will only be achieved by listening to women to understand what they want, as well as looking outside of the construction industry to see what works well in other sectors, and incorporate this in construction.

The BMF will hold its next Women in Merchanting Round Table on 13 February 2019. More details and videos of the discussions will be announced to members in due course.

The construction industry has come a long way over the years in reflecting diversity. However, there is still a long way to go – particularly in encouraging women to work in the sector.

The BMF celebrates five years working with the Samaritans  

by the Coventry Samaritans
26 December 2018

SamaritansFive years ago the Coventry Samaritans branch were looking for somewhere to train new volunteers. They needed modern premises with one large room with an overhead projector for group training along with several separate rooms for face to face skills training.

Mike Ballinger, director of local member Builders Supply Stores was asked by his wife Sarah, a Samaritan volunteer, if he knew of anywhere. Having been to the official opening of the BMF shortly before, he asked if the BMF could help the Samaritans. Mike says, “I recall sending an email to Peter Matthews (BMF Secretary at the time) one Monday morning and getting a positive reply within half an hour. Even better, was the fact that there was to be no charge, an enormous help to a local charity. Shortly afterwards, I also joined Samaritans and was one of the first to undergo training at the BMF.”  

The Samaritans are a national charity operating a 24 hour helpline, open every day of the year. Their mission is to reduce the number of people who die each year from suicide. Sadly over 6,000 people take their lives each year - that is one every 90 minutes. Two thirds of those are men and the highest risk group are those aged 45–59, a profile that largely reflects that of many builders’ merchants.  

For men under the age of 45, suicide is the largest cause of death exceeding those caused by accident or illness.  

Samaritans want to help anyone who is in distress and despair, not just those who are suicidal. Indeed, they like people to contact them before things get too much for them. Help is provided by listening. They don’t give advice. Instead they provide emotional support in a non-judgemental manner. The service is confidential, subject to any safeguarding concerns that may arise. Samaritans get over 5 million contacts per year, mostly by phone on the Freephone number 116 123, but also by text, email, letter and face to face.  

Samaritans work with Network Rail, the Prison Service, the NHS, and the Police. Samaritans also visit large events such as music festivals - even in large crowds people can feel lonely and distressed. Coventry branch, for example, gets nearly 30,000 contacts a year and is one of 200 throughout the UK and the Republic of Ireland, comprising some 20,000 volunteers.  

No-one wants a friend or work colleague to take their life, nor do they want them to suffer from poor mental or emotional health.  

Someone who is suffering may not be concentrating and could become unsafe and be involved in an accident. Samaritans can come and talk to employees and show them how they can help. They can provide posters for staffrooms, leaflets, drinks mats and cards.   BMF CEO John Newcomb says, ”Five years on, at a time when mental health awareness is increasing, the BMF is still proud to support the Samaritans by allowing them to continue using the BMF’s meeting facilities.”  

Trevor, the Samaritans Coventry Branch Director, is quoted as saying, “We are enormously grateful to the BMF. Our volunteer numbers have been increasing, we are now training 3 cohorts each year and we could not manage without the excellent facilities so generously provided by the BMF. Having so many separate spaces for skills training improves the quality of training and thus enhances the experience that our many callers receive.” 

For more information please visit or call 116 123 (UK)    

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 edition of One Voice
Five years ago the Coventry Samaritans branch were looking for somewhere to train new volunteers. They needed modern premises for group training along with several separate rooms for face to face skills training. The BMF were happy to offer their pre

The future for plumbing and heating merchants  

Mark Bradley18 December 2018

Mark Bradley, Managing Director of Plumbase and BMF Plumbing and Heating Forum Chairman, shares his views on what the future has in-store for specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants and how we plan to grow our forum.  

Plumbers' merchants in the UK have been supporting installers for generations and this is currently a thriving sector of construction merchanting.  A large reason for this is the limitlessness of the technical experience and product knowledge held by teams at the trade counter, which is backed by an excellent depth of stock profiles and availability. Branch teams also have a strong local awareness of projects happening in the area including the ability to make valuable suggestions when it comes to what installers need to be able to do their job done well. Overall, this is what makes the relationship much more personal and strategic when compared to the consumer retail market which tends to be more of a transactional relationship. Merchants will always go above and beyond to ensure that installers can always get the job done on time, within budget and without any hassle.  

When trading with time-pressed installers who run their own businesses, going the extra mile to source the right products, suggest alternatives, and liaise with suppliers to find out information quickly really does takes the pressure off tradespeople and business owners. Likewise, investing in valuable and free-to-access resources, such as having technical information like boiler manuals all in one place online, free delivery options direct to site, non-interest-bearing credit facilities and being able to solve product queries and or answer queries by working with manufacturers on the behalf of an installer is essential to running their business. Merchants continue to have excellent access to our supplier network and so it isn’t uncommon for installers to visit their local branch with product questions and queries. As a result, each merchant team becomes an extension of the plumber or heating engineer’s own business. Having a direct line to trusted branch teams with decades of industry experience is reassuring for our installer customers, and over time, a mutually beneficial relationship is built - where we are on-hand to find product solutions and offer quality advice with the installer returning to merchant with repeat business as loyalty and trust is built over years.  

From experience, we know that installers value being able to visit their local branch to check they are getting the right product at the right price. This is a vital way of working for them that they really value, appreciate and need, that is what they tell us continuously. Some installers are using online purchasing and account management now as new methods of procurement establish themselves and we are ensuring we meet that demand, this is especially the case for those SME’s just embarking on their career in the industry.  

It will be essential for plumber’s merchants to continuously adapt and change to be able to continue to provide the best service possible in all its forms. This is why we incessantly work with our customers and suppliers, to ensure we are offering the right level of support to them. We then take these learnings and use it to improve our product & service offerings ( the merchant value proposition )  online e-commerce channels including the skills and knowledge of our local teams.   

Merchants always take the long-term view that if you look after customers today, they will stay with you for the next 40 years. For plumber’s merchants, the journey continues, and we’ll always mould and shift our approach based around the needs of our customers today, tomorrow, and beyond.  I am proud to be part of such a dynamic industry and feel very privileged to recently become the Chairman of the BMF Plumbing and Heating forum.  

The BMF do a fantastic job organising forum events, enlisting guest speakers from in and outside the industry and putting on great events throughout the year.  Our forum provides us with a superb opportunity to drive change within the industry and shape our future. A key priority for me is to develop and increase attendance to the forums promoting inclusion for all members, providing a relevant platform for everyone to contribute, share ideas and continue to build robust relationships with our loyal manufacturer partners.  I look forward to seeing you at future forums.  

You can secure your place at the next BMF Plumbing and Heating Forum here
Mark Bradley, Managing Director of Plumbase and BMF Plumbing and Heating Forum Chairman, shares his views on what the future has in-store for specialist Plumbing & Heating merchants and how we plan to grow our forum.

Training merchants to succeed  

BMF trainingThe quality and variety of training and development courses offered is one of the prime reasons cited for joining the BMF. Many merchants use BMF courses to develop their teams from apprentices to senior managers. We like to think that they are all winners as they are building excellence within their own business, but the BMF’s annual Awards Dinner in September provides an ideal opportunity to recognise merchants who have gone the extra mile in their commitment to supporting their teams through BMF training.  

This year MGM Timber was named BMF Training Company of the Year, with Chandler Building Supplies Highly Commended as a close runner up.  

MGM, the largest independent timber merchant in Scotland, joined the BMF at the beginning of 2017 shortly after announcing ambitious expansion plans. They lost no time in in choosing the BMF as their training provider as they wanted merchant focussed training that would be of practical benefit for their growing business.  In little over a year they have made giant strides.  

They are committed to training new recruits and younger staff with 11 current employees in training through BMF Apprenticeships Plus Apprenticeship training Agency (ATA) to SVQ levels. Developing managers and potential managers is another priority.They now have a total of 10 team members studying for the BMF Diploma in Merchanting. In the last year they have also undertaken 10 days of in-house training to upskill 60 members of staff in key areas of the business using our Essential Sales, Managing for Success and Yard Foreman’s Toolkit courses.  

MGM Timber are now training at all levels within their organisation and the breadth and depth of that training helped them to claim the 2018 BMF Training Company of the Year Award.  

Sussex-based Chandler Building Supplies was Highly Commended by the judges for a well-crafted training programme, again aligned to specific staff graded levels throughout their business.   

They have worked closely with BMF regional manager, Alex Clifford, and BMF tutors to develop a number of in-house programmes. These include an innovative two year roll-on training plan for new starters which combines 12 set courses to form a rounded development programme.  

Young achievers  

The BMF Awards Dinner also celebrates the achievements of young people who have recently entered the industry or are taking the next steps up their chosen career ladder.  

Joe Etherington of Bridport Building Supplies, BMF Apprentice of the Year Level 2. Joe, who is undertaking a Trade Business Services apprenticeship through the BMF ATA is excelling in all aspects and has impressed customers, colleagues and his training provider alike with his diligence and attention to detail.  
Thomas Smith of Manningham Concrete in Bradford, BMF Apprentice of the Year Level 3. Thomas is undertaking a Digital Marketing apprenticeship, again through the BMF ATA which provides a gateway to a diverse range of training opportunities.  Thomas is recognised as a hardworking, goal-oriented team player by his colleagues who have been impressed by his progress and the goals he has achieved to date.  
Philip Long of John A Stephens in Nottingham, top performing student on the BMF Post Graduate Diploma in Leadership & Strategy. Philip was awarded a Distinction in this course and achieved the highest mark.  
Steve Shorey of Alsford Timber, top performer on the BMF Masters Degree in Leadership & StrategySteve amply demonstrates the power of personal development.  Having completed the BMF Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership & Strategy in 2017 he then went on to study and achieve his Masters Degree in July 2018.  

Congratulations to all our Award winners.    

BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degrees in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to online product knowledge and other specialist skills training. To find out more about any aspect of BMF training, contact or on 02456 854980, or click here

This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Professional Builders’ Merchant (PBM)
The quality and variety of training and development courses offered is one of the prime reasons cited for joining the BMF. Many merchants use BMF courses to develop their teams from apprentices to senior managers.

Autumn Party Political Conferences 

Brett AmphlettInter-city BMF engage the politicians

As memories of the World Cup in Russia faded, the BMF went to the Party Conferences in Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham. This summer, BMF members were canvassed on policy priorities and the BMF used these to shape its lobbying.

The backdrop and mood of each was very different. The Liberal Democrat gathering was poorly-attended, with only die-hard party members there. Labour was upbeat, with many more commercial visitors present than in recent years. The Conservatives were tense and inward-looking, making it hard to engage, with party members squabbling over their version of Brexit.  

In this blog, Brett Amphlett (BMF Policy and Public Affairs Manager) describes who he and John Newcomb (BMF CEO) met and the main topics of relevance to BMF interests:  

People, places and policies

To illustrate the extent of our lobbying of Westminster, Whitehall and government in the nations and regions, we thought you would like to see some of those we met.  

Liberal Democrats in Brighton  

•       Lord Andrew Stunell, Construction Spokesman
•       Baroness Sue Garden, Further Education & Skills Spokeswoman
•       Lord John Shipley, Housing and Northern Powerhouse Spokesman
•       Lord Chris Fox, Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy Spokesman  

The Lib Dems want another Referendum and were scathing of the Government’s handling of negotiations and preparations. With just 12 MPs in the Commons and only one MEP in Strasbourg, the Party relies on 105 peers in the House of Lords. On policy, the BMF discussed:  

•     better technical education and vocational training & skills (inc. apprenticeships)
•     re-introducing the Zero Carbon Homes Standard and improving the energy and thermal performance of buildings
•     offsite manufacturing to increase the number of homes using modern methods of construction
•     upholding laws on environmental protection and consumer and product standards post-Brexit
•     ways that companies can improve the diversity and inclusion of their workers.  

Labour in Liverpool  

The BMF was fortunate to talk to:

•     John McDonnell MP, Shadow Chancellor
•     Peter Dowd MP, Shadow Chief Secretary
•     Nia Griffiths MP, Shadow Defence Secretary
•     Angela Rayner MP, Shadow Education Secretary
•     Lesley Laird MP, Shadow Scottish Secretary
•     Alan Whitehead MP, Shadow Energy and Climate Change Minister
•     Jack Dromey MP, Shadow Pensions Minister
•     Bill Esterson MP, Shadow Business and International Trade Minister
•     Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London
•     James Murray, Deputy Mayor of London for Housing
•     Steve Rotheram, Liverpool City Region Mayor
•     Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol
•     Cllr Ian Ward, Leader of Birmingham City Council
•     Cllr Christopher Hammond, Leader of Southampton City Council
•     Lord John Prescott, former Deputy Prime Minister.  

Labour wants a General Election and acted like a government-in-waiting.  

Shadow Ministers had carefully-worked out (and costed) policies to announce and explain to visitors like the BMF.  

Our focus was plans by cities obligated to improve air quality by tackling roadside NO2 emissions. Over the summer, we responded to consultations from Birmingham, Derby, Leeds, Nottingham and Southampton Councils. In Liverpool, we met the Mayor and Deputy of Liverpool City Region, and the Leader of Southampton City Council, to make our case.  

The BMF understands why it is a serious issue and we support moves to improve air quality, but government must be willing to work with the BMF and its members. Merchants have no choice but to use diesel and we want politicians to grasp there are no realistic alternatives at present.  

The BMF has built a reputation as a leading voice on this issue, nationally  and locally. We share common cause with (for example) the Freight Transport Association, British Vehicle Rental and Leasing Association, Associated British Ports, and bus and taxi operators who all use diesel.  

The availability of compliant vehicles is central to our arguments. By the time we get to January 2020, it may not have proved possible for you to adapt - perhaps for technical reasons or no suitable vehicles were available to buy or lease - or there was an insufficient number made to meet demand. A lack of market capacity means that firms will be competing for compliant vehicles before city controls begin in 13 months time.  

Conservatives in Birmingham  

As the party in Government, security was strict, but we were able to talk to:

•     Phillip Hammond MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer
•     Chris Grayling MP, Transport Secretary
•     Dominic Raab MP, (then) Brexit Secretary
•     Robert Buckland MP, Solicitor General
•     Alok Sharma MP, Employment Minister
•     Kit Malthouse MP, Housing and Planning Minister
•     John Glen MP, Treasury Minister
•     Thérèse Coffey MP, Environment Minister
•     David Rutley MP, Forestry Minister
•     Andrew Jones MP, Party Vice-Chairman for Business
•     Neil Parish MP, Environment Select Committee Chairman
•     Andy Street, Mayor of the West Midlands
•     James Palmer, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough
•     Ben Houchen, Mayor of the Tees Valley
•     Cllr Lord Gary Porter, Chairman of Local Government Association
•     Lord Mike Whitby, former Leader of Birmingham City Council
•     Cllr Robert Alden, Leader of Opposition on Birmingham City Council.  

The Conservatives had a slew of announcements. In his platform speech, the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, announced several of relevance to BMF members - not all of them good.  

On planning permission, the Minister will consult on the planning system, land use and vacant buildings.  

This includes a new permitted development right to extend upwards on flats, shops and offices. No one wants a repeat of bad high-rise housing, but better use can be made of existing buildings. In the BMF members’ policy priorities survey, 74% voted for simplifying and speeding-up planning permission as their top priority.  

On post-Grenfell fire safety, the Secretary of State confirmed a ban on using combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings. A change in the Building Regulations will mean some materials will not be allowed in new high-rise homes, hospitals, care homes and student accommodation above 18 metres.  

In her speech, the Prime Minister announced that local authority borrowing restrictions will be removed, enabling them to build as many as 10,000 extra new council houses a year. Removing the cap on what councils can borrow against their Housing Revenue Account assets is very good news. Narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply is today’s single most important domestic priority. Ministers must use all available levers to ‘Change the Ratio’ between the small number of volume house-builders and the rest to foster a diverse, functioning market for building.  

This means freeing local authorities that for too long were seen as vital, but underused players in housing provision. The new Minister for Housing and Planning, Kit Malthouse MP, did 14 fringe meetings and met us at five of them. Mr Malthouse is MP for North West Hampshire, a rural constituency based around Andover. He has been in the job since July 2018 and is the eighth Conservative to hold the post in eight years. He joked that if his smartphone rang, he would try to finish the event before changing jobs.  

Kit Malthouse has a difficult job to deliver building 300,000 new homes a year by the mid-2020s. He has the benefit of a revised National Planning Policy Framework behind him that sets out what will and will not be allowed as developers work to narrow the gap between demand and supply.  

The Minister warned housebuilders not to become “like Kodak” suggesting if there is not more innovation, firms risk becoming obsolete. He quoted offsite manufacturing, modern methods of construction and robotic bricklayers.  

Asked what yardstick he will be judged by, Mr Malthouse said that was easy, “it’s all about numbers and I want more, better and faster.”  

Democratic Unionists in Birmingham  

The BMF was in the right place to meet former First Minister Arlene Foster, and Nigel Dodds MP, Deputy Party Leader. There was only one topic for them at the Tory Conference – continued uncertainty and suspicion over UKEU negotiations.  


In the last 9 years, the BMF has earned the right to be heard by central and local government and political parties. We enjoy good relations with politicians of all colours who take us seriously.  

Brexit dwarfs everything, but the most pressing issue is the need to boost output, employment and educational achievement in less-well performing areas, compared to London and the South East - the so-called ‘productivity puzzle’.  

Further devolution of powers and funds is very much in vogue. There are eight Metro Mayors in England that account for nearly 42% of all economic growth, covering 21 million residents. We have met five Mayors and explained how BMF members deliver for their local communities.    

This article appeared in the Winter Edition of One Voice. The posts held by senior politicians were correct at the time of going to press.  

If you would like to join the Brexit debate click here to book your place on the new BMF Brexit Forum on 23 January.
As memories of the World Cup in Russia faded, the BMF went to the Party Conferences in Brighton, Liverpool and Birmingham. This summer, BMF members were canvassed on policy priorities and the BMF used these to shape its autumn lobbying.

First class service for our members

27 November 2018
by BMF CEO John Newcomb

John NewcombThe BMF’s anniversary year is nearing its end with our final event, a celebratory Members’ Dinner, taking place at the Belfry later this month.  Although we are celebrating 110 years as a Trade Body our focus is very much on the future as we continue to support our members through changing and sometimes challenging times.  

This forward-looking focus has led to another year of firsts for the BMF.   

We held our first Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons in April and followed this with the appointment of our first government relations consultants for Scotland and Northern Ireland.  We now have skilled teams in place to promote our members’ interest at Westminster, with all three devolved assemblies and with local authorities nationally.   

The BMF’s thriving Young Merchant Group held its first Conference, which took place at the NEC during UK Construction Week.  The Conference was a great success, attracting 150 delegates drawn from current, past and potential Young Merchant Group members. Highlights included keynote speaker George Clarke, the architect, television presenter and campaigner, who not only spoke passionately on the need to attract more young people into the whole construction industry including the building materials sector, but also voiced some ingenious ideas to help overcome the country’s housing shortage.  

Membership of the BMF Young Merchant Group is open to merchants and suppliers aged between 21 and 40 holding a key management position within their organisation.  As well as offering opportunities to network and share experience, their meetings regularly feature one or more speakers to encourage and inspire members.   

BMF Young Merchant’s newly-elected Chair, Glenn Paddison of MKM Building Supplies, and Vice Chair, Jo Callow of Knauf Insulation, are keen to continue developing the group’s work and influence, for example, by encouraging members to play a leading role in promoting careers in our industry to school and college leavers through the BMF Ambassador programme.   

They also see an opportunity to strengthen the Group’s ties with European merchants to share best practice, possibly with a European Conference next year.  This ties in well with another first for the BMF and for me personally. As the UK approaches Brexit, it is even more important for the BMF to strengthen its links with our European colleagues and trade bodies and last month I was honoured to be confirmed as President of Ufemat, the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufacturers, becoming the first BMF CEO to hold that role.  

Another notable first, and a fantastic tribute to the professionalism of the whole BMF team, saw the BMF win the top honour of Overall Best Association in the prestigious Association Excellence Awards 2018, where we also won the prize for the best Association Website.  

The Association Excellence Awards, which are judged by a panel of over 20 CEOs and senior managers, recognise and reward the achievements of UK trade bodies, professional membership organisations and associations.  Awarding the BMF the prize for Overall Best Association – under 1000 members, the judges said that the Federation demonstrated strength in policy, membership events, communications, training and had genuine sector leadership.  

We are extremely proud to see the BMF’s work on behalf of our members independently recognised in this way. Our mission is to help merchant and supplier members to build excellence into every aspect of their business.  Be assured that no matter what our post-Brexit future brings, we will continue to develop the policies and programmes that helped us achieve recognition in the Association Excellence Awards to help our members build excellence into every aspect of their own business.  

This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Builders Merchants News (BMN)
The BMF’s anniversary year is nearing its end with its final event, a celebratory Members’ Dinner, taking place at the Belfry later this month. Although the BMF are celebrating 110 years as a Trade Body the focus is very much on the future.

Getting the BMF strategy right

20 November 2018
by Peter Hindle MBE, BMF Chairman

Peter Hindle MBEAs the merchant industry association, we want to ensure we get maximum engagement from our members. However, to get that we need to know exactly who they are and what they require from us. The BMF has been working very hard over the past five years to ensure that it is fully representative of the whole merchant industry. We now have a full range of members from national groups right down to single branch independents as members but there is still further to go.  

We do now talk to the industry and to government with one voice, however, that doesn’t mean that we have to be speaking with the same voice to all our members. One of the things that has become apparent is that the value our members get from their membership is very different depending where they sit in the industry.  

As an association we offer a huge amount of extremely good services to all our members but not all of them will need every service.  

So, a major part of our ongoing strategy for the next five years will be deeper segmentation of the membership. We want to know which segments our members fall into so that we can tailor the offering to them accordingly,  

That’s the first question we are working on, what exactly are the segments within our membership? We could end up with a list that includes specialists, plumbers’ merchants independents, manufacturers, manufacturers that distribute: the BMF covers a wide variety of businesses within the parameters of the building materials supply chain. Yes, of course, there will be some generic offerings, such as our youth recruitment programme, which crosses all the segments but there will be much more some specific stuff. Even within the independent sector there are completely different types of builders’ merchants.  

A smaller independent merchant’s needs for example might be based around what the BMF can do to help them with GDPR, with health and safety, with a racking inspection or help with transport and employment. Smaller merchants tend not to have the infrastructure to deal with these areas, so these are areas where the BMF can add real value for them. Larger national companies are more likely to be set up to do a lot of what we can offer for themselves, the Health and Safety or HR services, for example. What these larger members are looking for from their trade association might be more to do with the lobbying work that we do with government.  

Once we understand that deeper segmentation, it will allow us to start to tailor everything that we do around some of those segments.  

We will also be looking at increasing what we offer to suppliers who, after all make up 35% of our memberships. This might be offering sales courses or other training that at the moment is more focussed on the merchant membership. We know that we need to pay attention to our supplier members as much as our merchant members and also we need to ensure our service members are happy too.  

Manufacturers want to join the BMF because of the networking opportunities but that’s only a part of it and we will be able to offer them real value if we target their needs more specifically. We’ve been talking a lot about Brexit and VAT on imported goods etc. and those are some big subjects that will have a serious effect on the businesses of our suppliers, which will in turn affect how they do business with our merchant members.  

The segmentation will form the biggest part of our new strategy going forward and underpinning that will be our commitment to expanding excellence with people which will bring it all to life. We are very committed to giving those working in the merchant industry proper, portable, marketable accreditation. Our training offer is very successful, and our aim is to build opportunities for everyone in this supply chain to carve out careers, allowing them to move from yard sales to outside sales or into management, wherever they have the drive and capacity to end up.  

If you do training, you have to be the best at it; we don’t want to play around with it, we want to be offering market-leading opportunities to build the future of the industry.  

A big part of the training success has been the ability to be more local to our members; our regional centres of excellence have been instrumental in this. They are going from strength to strength and we now have 21 with further two or three about to open. And they are all being used regularly and have really helped to open up the BMF benefits to the membership.  

The real major drive for us is going to be around building greater engagement with the BMF, especially from the merchant membership.   

Segmentation is going to be key to the success of the BMF moving forward as, if you want to get more people more engaged, you have to make sure you’re giving them what they want from you and we will find that out by this segmentation process.  

Training and youth recruitment will continue to be a major focus for us. In fact, the youth recruitment programme will be a key part for every segment, as that’s an issue which affects all our members, large and small.  

This article appeared in the November 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)  
As the merchant industry association, we want to ensure we get maximum engagement from our members. However, to get that we need to know exactly who they are and what they require from us.

How Health & Safety savvy are you?

20 November 2018
John Southall, CEO of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, details the five key things that builders’ merchants should know

John SouthallBy 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 two years by an Environmental Health Officer.  There are also insurance company requirements, civil claims and customer feedback to keep merchants on their toes.  

But a lot has changed in recent years. From the introduction of new 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 builders’ merchant 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. Offending businesses are now much more likely to be receive substantial fines (based upon turnover), imprisonment of an individual, or insolvency of a business.  

New sentencing guidelines for gross negligence manslaughter also come into force in November 2018, increasing 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.  


The most common accidents and injuries in merchants are still related to workplace transport movements.  These include forklift trucks or reversing vehicles striking customers or employees, and falls from height, typically staff falling from the back of flat-bed lorries. Injuries caused by falling stock, together with manual handling injuries and slips and trips are other common risk areas.  

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.  


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

Hard hats with chinstraps. 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.  A number of recent court cases have set a precedent stating the requirement to wear a seatbelt on a forklift 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.  


Effective risk management in a merchant is influenced by the behaviour of individuals. Put simply, it’s not enough to provide safe equipment, systems and procedures if the culture doesn’t encourage healthy and safe working.  

Culture develops slowly over time and by acting safely workers can start to think safely.  


Faced with the challenges of warehouse logistics, materials handling and vehicle operation, health and safety compliance for builders’ merchants is a serious concern – but it can still be simple to manage. 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. 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.  

Cloud-based management software, like Southall’s user-friendly Safety Cloud, engages 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.  

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 any health and safety matter, please get in touch with the Southalls team on 0345 257 4015 or   BMF members can also request the following BMF H&S Business Guides from – Work at Height; Deliveries to Customer Sites; Workplace Transport; Material Storage and Handling; Saw Mills and Wood Working Machinery; Overarching Guide; Occupational Road Risk.  

Southalls are listed in The Times Top 200 list of legal advisors

This article appeared in the November edition of Builders' Merchants Journal (BMJ)
John Southall, CEO of Health and Safety Consultancy Southalls, the company that provides the BMF Safety Plus service, details the five key things that builders’ merchants should know.

Outstanding safety support for BMF members

Richard Ellithorneby Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
6 November 2018

The BMF represents and protects the interests of builders’ merchants in the UK. With that fact in mind, the BMF work with their partner Southalls to deliver safety support to its members.

Southalls is an award-winning health and safety consultancy with the most advanced cloud-based health and safety management software ‘Safety Cloud’.  Delivering safety expertise tailored to builders’ merchants for over a decade, Southalls 'impressive track record, testimonials and client retention, offers a compelling solution!

BMF Safety Plus service has been tailored to the needs of builders merchants and includes:

  • Initial merchant-specific health and safety gap analysis.

  • Tailored health and safety policy and site-specific risk assessments, built around critical safety concerns for builders’ merchants.

  • Six-monthly safety audits with actionable items delivered in online reports. Risk assessment amendments included.

  • Tailored e-Learning to cover requirements of a builders’ merchant with quizzes for staff to complete.

  • Assistance with accident investigations, including reporting under RIDDOR.

  • Competent person role (required under the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations).

  • Liaison with the EHOs, conducted by our own ex- enforcement officers.

  • Monthly e-Newsletter keeping you up to speed on legislative changes.

  • Free telephone advice from our sector experts, with mobile number for your dedicated consultant AND

  • Safety Cloud.


Key Benefits of Safety Plus

  • Measurable reductions in accidents and associated lost days.

  • Reduced insurance premiums through improved risk reduction.

  • Improved compliance, improved company safety culture and increased delegation of safety duties, freeing up management time for business growth.

  • Reduced EHO inspection frequency and enforcement action through demonstrating an effective safety management system is in operation.

  • Access to our unique 1-day Key Person and Yard Foreman training courses.



“Since working with Southalls the H&S in our organisation has improved 10-fold. The new H&S systems and reports have been met with enthusiasm by every manager & employee. This has empowered managers to take responsibility in their own branches. This is beginning to bear fruit and improving their working environments. Personnel, in general, are really buying into H&S which can only be a positive outcome in reducing accidents in the workplace. I would recommend Southalls to all businesses no matter how big or small.” Alan Ladyman, Company Transport & H&S Manager, Kent Blaxill & Co Ltd

“We chose Southalls based on recommendations from many NBG Members – not one bad comment received. Our experience of dealing with them has been excellent – Whatever has been promised/ agreed has been strictly adhered to.” Phil Kruse, Director - PGR Timber and Builders Merchants

“We chose Southalls as they specialised in builders’ merchants. We have been very happy with the service provided. Having 6-month audits are invaluable as well as the audit reports, saying what we should do. It has also been very easy to make contact and get answers to questions.” Shanker Patel, Managing Director - Lords

3 easy ways to find out more about BMF Safety Plus

  • Call Southalls on 0345 257 4015 (quoting your BMF Member No.)
  • Email Southalls at (quoting your BMF Member No.)
  • Post the completed form below to: Southalls, Cranmore Place, Cranmore Drive, Solihull, West Midlands, B90 4RZ


Southalls are ilisted in The Times Top 200 list of legal advisors.


The BMF represents and protects the interests of builders’ merchants in the UK. With that fact in mind, the BMF work with their partner Southalls to deliver safety support to its members.

BMF introduces second generation Diploma in Merchant Management 

by BMF Training
30 October 2018

Since its introduction in 2013 the BMF Diploma in Merchanting has become one of the most popular courses for recently appointed or aspiring managers within our industry.  Now it is set to be even better.   

Over 320 candidates have successfully completed the original Diploma, developing skills that have helped them progress in their careers and benefit their employers’ business.  But even great courses can be improved and we are delighted to announce the launch of our new look, second generation BMF Diploma in Merchant Management.  

Like the first generation programme, the updated course is specifically designed to help merchants develop the talent they already have within their business.  It not only exposes students to modern managerial thinking and attitudes it also enables them to share ideas directly and learn from the experiences of colleagues within the industry, equipping them with the skills required to better manage their own branch or area of business.  

It has been designed from the ground up to be relevant to managers and supervisors working in the builders’ merchant industry today. The course covers a range of practical tasks including self management, managing others, managing processes and managing change.  Students will not only learn key managerial skills but also how to apply them in their day to day working life.   DipMM Structure Part A

Whilst some of the content has been updated, the principal changes relate to delivery of the course, which is designed to be far more flexible and learner centred.  

To start with there is a shorter timeframe to completion, the whole programme can be completed within 18 months, rather than the 2 years plus of the previous course.  However, it also enables learners to take a mid-point break, allowing them to reinforce their knowledge and skills through work practice, due to the new Diploma’s tiered structure.    

Part A can either be taken on its own leading to a Certificate in Merchant Management, or as a preliminary to Part B which then leads to the full Diploma.  This format also provides flexibility for those with varying degrees of experience.  Part A is ideal as an entry into merchanting for aspiring managers or those with little prior experience.  Part B could be completed on its own by more experienced managers.    

The key knowledge-based elements of the course are covered using distance learning materials and written assessments, with skills and behaviours developed and assessed during contact days with tutors.  The old format of having just one contact day to discuss each set subject proved overly rigid and restrictive.  The new approach gives tutors the flexibility to shape the programme as they go in order to meet the specific needs of individual tutorial or in-company student groups. 
DipMM Structure Part B
The overall Diploma in Merchant Management programme is designed to prepare students for the rigors of managing a merchant business.  Those who successfully complete it will have identified both their individual strengths and areas for personal development and growth.  Above all, they will have the confidence to be better managers.  

To find out more about the new BMF Diploma in Merchant Management or any aspect of BMF training click here or contact or call Paige Godsell on 02456 854980.

This article appeared in the October 2018 edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
Since its introduction in 2013 the BMF Diploma in Merchanting has become one of the most popular courses for recently appointed or aspiring managers within our industry. Now it is set to be even better.

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