A momentous year 

by John Newcomb, CEO of the BMF
23 January 2018

John Newcomb, BMF CEO
2018 represents a monumental milestone in the BMF’s history as we celebrate three landmark anniversaries: 110 years as a Trade Body; 40 years as the Builders’ Merchants Federation; and 5 years since we relocated the business from London to our current premises in Coventry.  

To celebrate these landmarks we will be arranging three very special events during our anniversary year.  In the Spring, we will be holding our first Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons.  In the Autumn, we will be organising our first Young Merchants’ Conference.  Finally, in late November we will be holding a special Anniversary Members’ Dinner in the Midlands.  Details of all three major events will be announced in the coming weeks, and we do hope you will join us at one of them.  

While our anniversaries provide an opportunity to reflect on our heritage, the BMF’s focus is firmly on the future.  We begin the year working on two major initiatives – establishing the BMF in Ireland, and launching the first trade apprenticeship designed for the merchant industry by people currently working within it.  
Announced at the end of last year, our partnership with Allied Merchants Buying Association, the fastest growing merchant buying group in Ireland, gives the BMF an excellent foundation on which to build. Expanding into the Irish merchant community will undoubtedly strengthen the BMF. Our new Irish members are keen to create a dialogue with like-minded merchants and potential suppliers, opening another market for our supplier members.  

In another first, the BMF, working alongside the Electrical Distributors Association, jointly championed the Trade Supplier Level 2 Apprenticeship Standard.  To be launched later this month and offered to builders’ merchants through BMF Apprenticeships Plus, it set to become the sector’s primary Level 2 qualification.  It is also the first Apprenticeship designed to meet our industry’s specific needs, and I would like to thank all those who gave their time and energy to ensure it delivers the skills and knowledge needed by our new recruits.    

As a trade body for 110 years, the BMF has seen great changes both in the industry and in our own organisation.  One thing that has remained the same is our support for the industry and, our members, who are at the heart of everything we do as an organisation. 

I wish you all health, happiness and every success in 2018.      

This article appeared in the January 2018 edition of BMN
A momentous year. 2018 represents a monumental milestone in the BMF’s history as we celebrate three landmark anniversaries: 110 years as a Trade Body; 40 years as the Builders’ Merchants Federation; and 5 years since we relocated the business from

Apprenticeships blaze a new trail  

by James Spillane, BMF Training and Development Manager
16 January 2018
BMF Apprenticeships

The BMF starts the year on a high note, with the launch of a brand new, industry specific Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard that is set to become the sector’s primary Level 2 qualification.  

This is the first apprenticeship to be designed by the industry, for the industry.  It was developed as part of the government’s Trailblazer initiative, which encourages groups of employers to work together to create apprenticeships for their own sector. This will ensure that people have up-to-date workplace skills that are fully relevant to their business. In this case, the employers were mainly drawn from members of the BMF and the Electrical Distributors Association, who require similar workplace skills.   

Trade Supplier Apprentices may work on the trade counter, or specialise in other roles in the merchant trade, including sales, purchasing account management, logistics and administration. 

Some fifteen training providers have been signed up to deliver the new apprenticeship across the UK. It will be offered to builders’, timber and plumbing merchants through BMF Apprenticeships Plus, the BMF’s Apprenticeship Training Agency. It will also be eligible for funding under the new Levy system.  

John Henry, Director of BMF Apprenticeships Plus said: “This employer-led qualification will give young people entering the industry an excellent grounding in merchanting and will raise the bar in terms of skills and knowledge at an early point in their careers.  Having been in close communication with many businesses it is clear that the merchanting sector has been waiting for this new apprenticeship and I am confident of a significant take up by employers wishing to recruit and train new entrants and existing colleagues.”  

To find out more about the Trade Supplier Level 2 Apprenticeship standard please contact me at or on 02456 854980.    

Championing skills and service

The BMF actively promotes merchanting as an excellent career choice for young people, but we recognise that our sector is often overlooked in this digital age. Which is why we were delighted to support the Travis Perkins Apprenticeship Skills to Service Challenge last November.  

For three days, the company took over the F1 pits at Silverstone, used by both the British F1 and MotoGP Grands Prix, to put 135 of their apprentices through a series of practical business simulations that tested their technical knowledge, customer handling ability and sales skills.  

Louise Powell, Head of Education & Learning at Travis Perkins plc explained: “Holding ‘customer world’ practical simulations helps our apprentices to increase their knowledge and skills in a safe and controlled environment.  Having the chance to hold this exercise at the Silverstone F1 pits was a unique opportunity, that gave our apprentices the perfect setting – that champions precision, attention to detail and efficiency – to learn in.”  

John Stephenson, BMF Regional Manager, who advised Travis Perkins and presented the winners’ prizes said: “This was a great event that generated a lot of interest across local and social media. Not only is it a fantastic way for apprentices to demonstrate their skills and develop team working, it also showcases the breadth of career opportunities available within our industry.” 

The BMF would like to hear about other innovative training initiatives planned for 2018. Please contact me at or on 02456 854980. 

This article appeared in the January 2018 edition of Professional Builders' Merchant (PBM)

Apprenticeships blaze a new trail. The BMF starts the year on a high note, with the launch of a brand new, industry specific Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard that is set to become the sector’s primary Level 2 qualification.

Be prepared for transport changes

BMF Transport Plus4 January 2018

That’s the message of the latest transport update from Bob Sands, transport and compliance manager for Prompt Services, who provide BMF’s Transport Plus service.

Transport managers and O-Licence holders should be aware that DVSA traffic examiners are going to be given new powers to issue on-the-spot fines for any drivers’ hours offences committed in the previous 28 days.   

While the date for the introduction of this new directive is still to be announced, since 1 November 2017, traffic examiners have been able to issue fines for up to 5 drivers’ hours offences in a single check. It means they could be fined up to £1,500 in a single check.  

The impact of the new rules will be more pronounced when the power to punish historic offences comes into force. If stopped, drivers may be issued with a fixed penalty fine for offences in the previous 28 days, up to a maximum of five offences.  

The new rules are designed to improve safety and will primarily impact those who don’t take sufficient rest breaks, and endanger others.  According to RoSPA, driving while tired may be responsible for 1 in 5 of all accidents, and about 40% of sleep-related accidents involve commercial vehicles.     

Driver CPC – training countdown

The Driver Certificate of Professional Competence (CPC) qualification lasts for five years and requires drivers to undertake 35 hours of periodic training during that time if it is to be renewed. Many drivers, particularly those who entered the scheme with ‘acquired rights’, now have less than two years to do this as the full training block must be completed by 9 September 2019.   

If they have not already done so, transport managers should put plans in place to ensure their drivers have sufficient time to complete their CPC training without a last minute rush.     

Prepare for Clean Air

Anyone driving in London should be aware of the T-Charge Zone, which came into force on 23 October 2017.  Vehicles that do not meet the Euro 4/IV emission standard, or above, must pay the £10 daily charge if they enter the Zone between 07:00 and 18:00 Monday to Friday.  The T-Charge is additional to the existing Congestion Charge.  

Transport for London (TfL) has also brought forward plans for a new Ultra Low Emission Zone. This will now come into force on 8 April 2019 and will operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week within the same area as the current Congestion Charging Zone.  The emission standard for this zone will be tougher for diesel cars and vans and for HGVs, which will have to meet Euro 6/VI as a minimum.  Non-compliant cars and vans will pay a £12.50 charge – on top of the T-Charge and Congestion Charge – while lorries exceeding 3,500kg GVW will have to pay £100 a day.  

Changes are also planned in other cities as the Government has not brought air pollution to within legal limits and has lost court cases over diesel emissions. Clean Air  Zones (CAZ) are proposed with Leeds, Derby, Nottingham, Birmingham and Southampton the first in line.  Ministers have decided to make charging the option of last resort, and the local councils have until April 2018 to devise their plan.  The CAZs are due to come into force by the end of 2019, but how they will be implemented, which vehicles are affected and Zone boundaries remain unclear.  

While the BMF supports moves on clean air it is concerned that controlling access to cities, or setting entry charges will hamper the deliveries to customers. The BMF has called on ministers to support merchants by providing incentives to modernise vehicles.  In particular, it wants to see a diesel scrappage scheme to help SMEs replace older lorries, trucks and vans.  

Direct Vison Standard

Finally, as part of a consultation process, TfL has released interim direct vision star ratings as part of the development of its proposed Direct Vision Standard (DVS). This will categorise HGVs depending on the level of a driver's direct vision from a cab, giving them a zero to five- star rating.

If approved the proposals will require all HGVs over 12 tonnes to hold a safety permit to enter or operate in London from 2020. Those rated 'one star' and above would automatically be granted a permit, while those rated 'zero star' (lowest) would have to include specific recognised safety systems, such as sensors, visual warnings and comprehensive driver training, before a permit is granted.  Be warned, however, only those vehicles rated 'three-star' and above, or which have comprehensive safety systems, are likely to be able to operate in London from 2024.

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.  

This article first appeared in the December 2017 issue of BMJ

Click here to find out more about joining the BMF  or email Oz Bham, Membership Manager at

Be prepared for transport changes That’s the message of the latest transport update from Bob Sands, transport and compliance manager for Prompt Services, who provide BMF’s Transport Plus service.

Local service

by James Spillane, BMF Training & Development Manager
21 December 2017

Worcester Bosch - BMF Regional Centre of ExcellenceNetworking has always been at the heart of the BMF and one of the reasons it is so popular is the huge amount of informal learning that can be gleaned from colleagues in the wider industry.  These interactions can take place at regional meetings, social events, specialist Forums as well as designated training days.  

The BMF is making it even easier for local groups to come together for meetings and training events, using facilities much closer to their normal place of work.  Over the past year we have been working with members to create a network of regional hubs for local groups.  Our ultimate aim is to have at least two Regional Centres of Excellence (RCoE) in each of our twelve regions.  With seventeen up and running, we are on course to achieve that goal.  

Our RCoEs are increasingly being used for regional training days, and to host regular seminars for groups of students studying for the BMF Diploma in Merchanting.  Encon in Chorley, one of the first RCoE to open back in October 2016, hosts an established,15-strong Diploma group, while new groups just embarking on their Diploma courses will meet at Norbord in Stirling, Ridgeons in Cambridge, Worcester Bosch in Worcester, RGB in Tiverton and Kellaway in Bristol.   

The various centres will also host day courses for small groups.  We have already run training on sales, customer service, maximising margin, the yard foreman’s toolkit and the new General Data Protection Regulations which come into effect in May 2018.  In fact, members can request any of our courses to be run at these centres.  The best way to do so is via their regional manager, or direct to BMF Training Manager, James Spillane. 

Our sector-related Forums provide more opportunities for like-minded groups to come together, discuss common issues, learn from each other and to forge relationships. The BMF’s Decorating Forum, which met for the first time this year, was held at the Dulux Academy in Slough, the first BMF RCoE in the South East region.   

We are extremely fortunate that our members are assisting in our RCoE programme by giving us the use of their own state of the art training and meeting facilities. The Dulux Academy is a just one example. It opened in 2016 as the first academy for painters and decorators and can accommodate over 4,000 trainees each year.   

Our latest RCoE at Worcester Bosch is the result of another huge, £3.5m, investment in industry training that will also benefit BMF members.  Twenty-five people attended the first BMF regional meeting held here in October, and training courses are already lined up for the new year.  As well as the regular meetings of the West Midlands Diploma Group, Worcester Bosch is hosting a course for supplier members, “Selling into Merchants”.  

Our RCoE’s are just the place for small group meetings and training sessions.  By bringing training closer to home, and removing the time and cost of travel as a barrier, we want to encourage as many people as possible to get involved and develop their skills.  

BMF training ranges from formal Apprenticeships and, with leading British universities, sector-specific Diplomas, Degrees and a Masters Degrees in Merchant Leadership and Strategy, to on-line product knowledge and other specialist skills training. To find out more click here  at BMF RCoE’s or any aspect of BMF training, please email me at or call 02476 854980.

To view the locations of all the BMF Regional Centres of Excellence click here  

This article appeared in the December 2017 edition of Professional Builders’ Merchant (PBM)
Local service. James Spillane, BMF Training & Development Manager says networking has always been at the heart of the BMF and one of the reasons it is so popular is the huge amount of informal learning that can be gleaned from colleagues in the wid

Why built environment brands need to focus less on business and more on people  

20 December 2017
By Dianne Lucas FCIM, CMDi Managing Director

Dianne Lucas“Customer centricity” is a popular phrase many B2B marketers use to reassure themselves that they’re putting their target audience first. It’s supposed to be a way of ensuring a more positive experience with an audience that will hopefully drive more business, loyalty and profits.  

But here’s the thing: while marketers – and the companies who employ them – still think of their audiences in terms of “businesses” they’re failing to focus on the most important part: the people behind them. Because “businesses don’t make decisions; people do.”  

The business being marketed to is not a faceless company to which you sell your product or service. It’s a key person, or key people, in that company. Often, the person running it.  

B2B is DOA  

Most B2B communications are dead on arrival, because they fail to enliven or connect with the people who actually receive them. Lest we forget, over 70% of global B2B customers are either “indifferent or actively disengaged with their suppliers”, according to a Gallup poll. And 86% of buyers reported seeing “little, if any, real difference” between B2B suppliers and “did not value the difference” enough to pay for it in a Google/CEB poll.  

But, by analysing the complexity of actual B2B customer decision-making, P2P-focused companies are cultivating deep and in-depth knowledge of what their “customers” really want. They’re turning customer-centric intention into actions that deliver real value.  

It’s probably one of the most important, and overdue, shifts in marketing. And it’s already proving its worth. Successful “business-to-business” marketing is moving to a “people-to-people” way of thinking: B2B to P2P. A small change in terms that’s making a big change to results.  

P2P-focussed companies aren’t just customer-centric, they’re people-focussed. They don’t look solely to serve the functional needs of businesses, they build meaningful relationships to understand and connect better with the real people they serve. And in doing so, they stay ahead as the wants and needs of those people change.  

P2P marketingP2P works  

BrightTalk research has shown that using a customer persona when creating a B2B email campaign can double the open rate and increase click-through by 5x. That’s because, at the heart of P2P marketing, is the creation of a deep and real understanding of who the offer is being targeted to. It’s that old issue of knowing your audience. B2B brands have simply generalised – or worse, guessed – what they think construction professionals think of their building product or service for too long.  

But those business brands that are delivering clear and tangible and targeted customer value are winning, while others are wondering where their money’s going. And this success all starts with a clearly defined understanding of the buyer persona.  

Persona grata  

Developing an effective buyer persona has been described as being “like putting yourself in the shoes of your highest-rated potential customers.” You essentially create a mental place-holder for real people in real situations.  

Personas help companies visualize and understand the ideal customer they’re attempting to attract and allows them to relate to them in an authentic and engaging way. Only by having a deep understanding of a target audience can effective and lasting customer acquisition and retention be achieved.  

Get personal, get effective  

True P2P marketing is about going deeper than ever before to get closer to customers and importantly to equip the sales force to understand them better and be armed with everything need to engage on a one-to-one level.  

For instance, making sure your most expensive marketing tool (your salesforce) is not only included in the marketing mix but well equipped. They need insightful and incisive info which enables them to put whatever product or service into context for the customer – especially for new product launches or new contact introductions.  

CMDi’s long experience working within the sector shows that organisations that put their offer into the context of the customers life are the most successful. And those that equip sales people with the right messaging and tools to do that are the ones who increase share faster. Customers are simply too busy to have to think about it and work it out for themselves.” Find out more about CMDi’s P2P strategies here

To help improve P2P and develop a more tailored understanding of members the BMF are working closely with built environment brand specialists CMDi as well as digital construction marketing specialists Pauley Creative.
Why built environment brands need to focus less on business and more on people. Dianne Lucas, CMDi Managing Director talks about the advantages of persona marketing and the need to create a more detailed understanding of your customers

How to overcome the top three IT challenges for merchants

Richard Ellithorneby Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
13 December 2017

The BMF has launched BMF IT Solutions Plus to help its members to utilise digital technology to enhance their service and improve productivity.

Working in partnership with Phoenix Software, the new service offers enterprise IT at SME prices and addresses the top three IT challenges identified in a recent BMF survey. The main issues reported in the survey were keeping up to date with current IT software versions and retaining compatibility, the provision of 24/7 access and mobility, and renewing old hardware.

BMF IT Solutions Plus is a cloud-based service that provides user companies with access to the latest technology andsoftware, eliminates the risks associated with managing site-based IT infrastructure and provides 24/7 support. The service is designed to improve productivity across the business, enabling teams to collaborate wherever they are.Software can be accessed 24/7 via PC, Mac,tablet or phone, with built in security toprotect sensitive data.

One of the most comprehensive ways of addressing all three challenges identified by merchants is to consider moving to Microsoft Cloud. To introduce our new IT Solutions Plus service, our partners, Phoenix Software, are offering BMF members a free, no obligation, Cloud Assessment to review how it may help their business.
BMF IT Solutions Plus
To find out more about how the BMF IT Solutions Plus service visit our Membership Services page or to arrange for a Cloud Assessment by contacting Phoenix Software on 01904 562200 or email
BMF Membership Services Director Richard Ellithorne talks about how merchants can overcome the top three IT challenges

Merchant GDPR Compliance will be more driven by supply chains than the ISO  

Andy Flinn11 December 2017
Andy Flinn of RDS Global talks about the forthcoming GDPR Compliance Law:

As we approach the legal deadline (May 2018) for all builders merchants to comply with the law regarding data protection, many of us may feel overwhelmed by the legal speak around GDPR compliance.  

Smaller businesses can feel blinded by the volume of information now being pushed from all angles, mostly from the legal and professional services seminars, and may sideline or ignore this issue in the belief that smaller businesses will duck under the radar of the Information Commissioners Office (ICO)  police. 

This may be true for a while, but as the months pass, non-compliance will be highlighted by the supply chain well before the ICO gets its hands on your organisation  

The GDPR law is specific, not an option and will be enforced by the ICO on an increasingly rigorous basis. Larger customer organisations are now well prepared and have plans to be certified compliant by the deadline. The supply chain, eventually reaches YOU.  

Customers and suppliers will insist on your certified compliance to continue to do business with you. Remain non-compliant, and you will lose those customers. It is this pressure and requirement that will drive the take up of GDPR compliance, leaving the ICO to monitor and take action where the supply chain highlights. The ICO are now being funded, and are taking on inspectors and other staff.  

However, going forwards, the ICO is gearing to become a self-financing organisation, which means that they will need to impose fines in order to fund themselves. This is bad news for businesses who will become targets for the ICO.  

Many articles stop at this point, getting across the general issues of GDPR compliance, and focusing on the big picture only. We thought it was high time we now got specific, and help you by illustrating just some of the specific points that you must consider to become compliant.   

Data management starts with the identification of what data you hold. This takes the form of multiple databases, your contact software, email software, and any ad hoc tools that have sprung up over the years that you use for marketing. This takes many forms, and at board level you may not even be aware of the existence of this data, driven by your teams, helpful today, but not compliant tomorrow.  

Then there is the matter of hard copy, paper based records. These are included in the GDPR, so long forgotten documents fall into the remit of the ICO and GDPR framework. Do you understand where these are held, and who has access to them?  

Access to data records is critical, as “sufficient controls” must exist to protect the data subject. Do you have controls over the place where data is stored, and who has access to it? Storage of data on people’s local PCs has previously been highlighted as a security problem, but GDPR places a board level responsibility, to ensure this is controlled/audited by you.  

Moving to the relationship with your suppliers and customers. Do you understand their compliance, the legal relationship to control the sharing of data, and your control over this process?  

GDPR compliance is not an option, it becomes law in May 2018. Your business must comply to avoid the well-publicised fines and penalties.  

This is NOT just an IT issue, it is a board room director-led matter, then will either promote and drive business, or in the case of non-compliance, will drag your business down, lose you customers and reduce your profits.  

Don’t delay. Establishing an early audit is the first step. This will provide you with the facts about your business, and help you decide next actions. Doing nothing is not an option if you want to do business in 2018.    

For more information about the BMF’s new Cyber Security service, helping members to reinforce information security and to comply with new data protection laws which come into force in May 2018, click here or contact Richard Ellithorne for more information at

This article appeared in the winter 2017 edition of One Voice
Merchant GDPR Compliance more driven by supply chains than the ISO. Andy Flinn of RDS Global talks about the forthcoming GDPR Compliance Law.

My career as a woman in merchanting and the opportunities for others

by Kerry Lockyer,Learning and Development Business Partner at Travis Perkins Group
29 November 2017

Pictured L-R: Kerry Lockyer with Laura McCaig"When I applied for a role in the Travis Perkins training team back in 2010, I didn’t really know what to expect.I had heard of Travis Perkins and some of the brands that make up the Group, but I had no idea that it was so big or that the industry it served was quite so diverse! I’d previously completed a Graduate Scheme with a large retailer after I left University. During this time I had turned my love of supporting, mentoring and developing others into a role in Learning and Development, which then became my career.

The thing that absolutely struck me on my first day in Travis Perkins was just how passionate everyone was about doing a great job, not only for our customers, but for each other. Everyone I met was genuinely interested in hearing my viewpoint. I remember being really surprised that a business so large and complex, with so many colleagues (already well over 20,000at that point), still had that ‘family feel’. This is still as true today and it’s one of the many reasons I love working here!

During my time in the business, I’ve had the opportunity to work in many different roles, both within the Group and across the different divisions. I have always found that the most important things I have been judged on are my skills, abilities and the value I can add, rather than on any other factors.I’ve always had opportunities for personal growth and development of a breadth and depth that I’m not sure I would have received in any other business, including my recent completion ofthe CIPD Advanced Level 7 Certificate in HR.

Whilst it’s been a great career choice for me personally, I’d still love to see more women and more diversity within our industry, which is why I’m proud to be a BMF Ambassador.

I love that the Travis Perkins Group recognises the value a more diverse workforce can bring to colleagues and customers alike. Our “Workforce with a Difference” approach is working hard to attract more women into the industry and people from all parts of our society.

At a recent Apprenticeship Graduation Ceremony, around half of our apprentices receiving awards were women. That’s really something to be proud of and the Apprenticeship Team lead by Louise Powell has ambitious plans around our response to the Apprenticeship Levy.

In 2017, more than a quarter of our apprenticeship intake were female. We want to bring this up to 50% over the next five years. Whilst this is certainly ambitious, we have a clear strategy in place to make it achievable.

Recently, part of my role has been to deliver programmes that develop a pipeline of future leaders. Ithas been important to me tohelp colleagues realise that they need to think differently about how they build inclusive, diverse teams. To this end, we now include a module on ‘Unconscious Bias’ within ourLeadership Programmes. It’s been a privilege to witness the shift in mindset that this simple, powerful, module has created.

The Group has also been investing in other great initiatives that support women in the workplace; sponsoring colleagues through the all female Duke of Edinburgh Award to develop their confidence and leadershipskills, whilst building a future talent pipeline, and increased holiday for those returnin gfrom maternity leave are just a couple of examples.

All these initiatives havehelped the Travis PerkinsGroup to triple the amount of women in senior roles since 2008, with four having reached the role of Managing Director.

With continued focus on our ‘Workforce witha Difference’ approach, combined with the exciting developments to the Apprenticeship Programmes, the future really is an exciting place for women in our industry!

Pictured L-R: Kerry Lockyer with Laura McCaig (former Management Apprentice and now Assistant Branch Manager at City Plumbing Supplies in Warrington)

This article was featured in the Winter 2017 edition of the BMF's One Voice magazine
Kerry Lockyer, Learning and Development Business Partner at Travis Perkins Group talks about working in the industry and the opportunities available for others

“PSST – Wanna buy a database”?

Andy Flinnby Andy Flinn of RDS Global
9 November 2017

Over the many years we all know that databases “migrate” from one company to another, by means of an errant employee moving jobs, friends who want to help, or accidental acquisition.

There aren’t many companies and if you’ve been in business a while, many business owners, who have not encountered the opportunity to increase your marketing reach by using “borrowed” data.

There may have been legal spats if the originator can be bothered, but once the data has been moved on, there is little that could be done in reality. All of this is about to change with the GDPR, due to come into force on 25 May 2018!

From this point on, it is a matter of law as to how data is controlled and moved, and it has a revenue earning (self-financing through fines) police force attached called the ICO (Information Commission Office) It will be their job to identify, prosecute and fine those delinquent businesses who flout the new laws.

Between now and 25 May 2018, all businesses have the legal responsibility to become compliant to the new rules and regulations, or suffer the unwanted attention of the ICO.

GDPR is broad and deep and changes the way that marketing can operate. Data is now the gold dust of your company, and the old ways of sharing ad hoc, are now over.

For Marketers, this presents a significant headache in the next 6 months. The need to identify the source of all existing data across the company, understand if they have legal permission to process this data post May 2018, and then tap dance through the maze of new regulations that control how marketing data is to be used, when, by whom, and for how long.

Your positive actions will lead to compliance, brand enhancement, customer confidence and retention and attraction of your staff across the business.

Get it wrong, or simply not be bothered, and the results could be catastrophic, as customers refuse to deal with a non-compliant supplier, staff lose confidence in their employer, and heaven forbid the ICO catch you out and punitive fines are levied.

This is not just about marketing data, it covers all data wherever it is in the business. However, marketing is the shop window of any business, and can drive a business success if data management is done correctly.

So, how will you respond to the next person who asks you ….. “psst – wanna buy a database”?  

For information about the BMF's GDPR and CYber Audit Service click here
“PSST – Wanna buy a database”? Read Andy Flinn's blog (RDS Global). Over the many years we all know that databases “migrate” from one company to another, by means of an errant employee moving jobs, friends who want to help, or accidental acquisitio

Transforming apprenticeships  

BMF Apprenticeships Plus
by Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
23 October 2017

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 is the time of year that many merchants look to take on apprentices, and the first apprentices to be placed by the BMF’s accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) are amongst those starting work.   

As an ATA, the BMF acts as the formal employer of the apprentices who are placed with member companies. This removes potential administrative hurdles making it easy for BMF members to take on an apprentice in any job role.  

The BMF ATA is one of two new services we now offer through BMF Apprenticeships Plus. The other is a Levy Management service, which is proving an attractive option for members who directly employ one or more apprentices.     So how do the two schemes work?  


This service is ideal for smaller companies who are not currently Levy payers.  However, it is also proving attractive to Levy paying organisations wishing to employ entry level apprentices, as it allows them to dedicate their own levy pot to upskilling existing staff.  

The BMF ATA qualifies as a levy payer so we can recruit and employ the apprentice on behalf of the host member. The ATA oversees all the administrative aspects of the apprenticeship, providing ongoing HR and training support, sourcing and contracting with training providers and funding agencies, and undertaking performance management reviews.  The ATA also applies for relevant incentive payments on the host’s behalf, which can be used to offset their costs, outlined below.  

The host company pays a 10% contribution towards the cost of the training course – normally between £20 and £50 – and a 10% management fee based on the apprentice’s monthly salary.    

Levy Management

As the name implies, this is aimed at larger companies who are Levy Payers that directly employ one or more apprentices.  While such companies are able to contract directly with a training provider, this year’s reformed system transfers ‘ownership’ of apprentices from training providers to employers. This is intended to improve the quality of training, but it will also put a great deal more responsibility on the employer.  

The BMF’s Levy Management Service essentially takes over these responsibilities.  For a small monthly fee, this service will source and contract the training provider and negotiate the cost of apprenticeship training as well as the cost of end point assessments.  It will also manage and monitor monthly payments to training providers and claim additional learning support and employment incentives on the employer’s behalf.  

The service can be used for both new apprentices and existing employees who are being upskilled.  If required, BMF Apprenticeship Plus can also help companies to recruit suitable apprentices.  

BMF Apprenticeship Plus is a hugely exciting initiative for the BMF.  Since launching in May, we are already in dialogue with over 40 member companies who are looking to develop their next generation of employees. By October 47 apprentices will have been recruited through this service, but this is just the start.  This first tranche of enquiries alone could lead to 200 new apprentices joining the industry.

To find out more about BMF Apprenticeship Plus or any aspect of BMF training, contact or on 02456 854980.

This article appeared in the October edition of Professional Builders Merchant
BMF Membership Services Director Richard Ellithorne talks about transforming apprenticeships. This is the time of year that many merchants look to take on apprentices, and the first apprentices to be placed by the BMF’s accredited Apprenticeshi

The Brexit clock is ticking

by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
16 October 2017

John NewcombMore than a year since the country voted to leave the EU, the reality of how our business lives will be affected remains unclear.   At BMF Members’ Day in September, against the background of a ticking countdown clock, our focus was firmly on Building Beyond Brexit as our speakers, including Alok Sharma, the Housing & Planning Minister, gave us their insights into possible outcomes, the challenges that may arise and the opportunities they may bring.  

There is still clearly a lot of uncertainty but one thing is sure, and that’s the BMF’s intention to play a lead role in any changes to legislation, building regulations or customs and tariffs that may affect our Members.  Over the last 15 months our Policy and Public affairs work has risen up the Agenda.  We are regularly engaging with Government departments and ministers -  this is the first time, for example, that we have had a housing minister speak at Member’s Day.  

Since the General Election in June, and in preparation for the Autumn political party conference season, we have updated our Policy outlook document, which outlines our key asks from Government. For the second year running the BMF, this year in partnership with the NFRC, was a major sponsor of the Skills Summit held at the Lib Dem Conference in Bournemouth.  We also attended the Labour Party Conference in Brighton the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester.  

We are fortunate that the BMF membership is at its highest for over 20 years.  The fact that we are the fourth largest construction trade body representing over 80% of the merchant sector means that our voice is not only being heard, our views are now actively sought.  

Core Values  

Whatever the challenges of Brexit, the BMF is committed to building a business that will continue to be relevant to members and in great shape to serve and support our industry.  

With four new non-executive directors appointed this year, we are in the process of building a new Board to lead the Federation through the changes facing our industry.  Their first task is to formally review our strategy and produce a new strategic roadmap for the next five years.  The roadmap will be delivered next summer but we have already started on the journey by signing off the three Core Values that will underpin the BMF’s vision for the future.   Our Core Values confirm that we are: 

Passionate about adding value to our Members’ businesses
Member focused and Member engaged
Personal, approachable and trustworthy  

Working together  

We understand the value of working together and the strength that this gives us.  Over the past year we have created 15 Regional Centres of Excellence throughout the UK.  This has been made possible by merchant and supplier members making their premises available for our use for regional meetings, training, and local press and public affairs events.  We are also indebted to our 11 Regional Chairs, busy merchants who give up their very valuable time to head each the BMF’s Regions, as well as the Sector Chairs who run each of our product category and job specific forums.  Without their support, these meetings simply couldn’t happen.  

The trend towards localisation will gain prominence in our future Policy and Public affairs strategy, as the UK moves towards more devolved powers, with the appointment of Policy and Public affairs consultants in Scotland and Northern Ireland during the next 12 months.  This follows the successful appointment of our Welsh public affairs consultant last summer.  

Over the next five years we are aiming for further growth and greater influence.  By 2020, we aim to have a 90% share of the Merchant sector with 500 Merchants and 250 Suppliers in membership, making us at the very least the third largest Trade Association in the construction industry.  But even more importantly, we want to be regarded by our members, our peers, and by those we seek to influence as one of the best and most professionally run Trade organisations in the UK.

This article appeared in the October 2017 edition of Builders' Merchants News

The Brexit clock is ticking by John Newcomb, BMF CEO. More than a year since the country voted to leave the EU, the reality of how our business lives will be affected remains unclear. At BMF Members’ Day in September, against the background of a

View from the Chair
by Peter Hindle MBE, BMF Chairman
15 October 2017

Peter Hindle MBEThe AGM of the BMF at Members’ Day not only makes the BMF accountable to members, it also provides a useful opportunity to remind ourselves of the role of the Board, ie  

  • To be prudent custodians of the BMF’s assets
  • To provide financial planning in support of the BMF’s goals and objectives
  • To provide timely and accurate financial statements  

This year, my fourth as Chair, we were able to present some impressive numbers.

Membership continues to grow at a rate of one new member a week, with merchants and supplier companies alike recognising the value of joining. But with more resources in place to support members, a high proportion of the Federation’s income now comes from training and events rather than subscriptions.  Add to this the growth in value of the BMF’s property and investment portfolios and the 2016/17 accounts show a cash surplus of £243,000.  

This presents the Federation with an opportunity to invest in new areas. As a company limited by guarantee, we do not want to retain a lot of profit when it could be used to benefit members.  Last year, for example, we invested £55,000 in a new CRM system, which is helping us to engage better with our members.  

I’ve said before that members are at the heart of the Federation but, in fact, they are in charge, and the Board is elected to carry out their wishes.  With this in mind, we would welcome ideas from members on what they would like to see the BMF doing next. What do you think we should invest in to help you?  Should we put more funds into existing campaigns, such as our Youth Recruitment campaign?  Should we upgrade operations, as we have done with the new CRM system?  Or should we explore a completely new area?    

Business plans  

The rest of Members’ Day focused on Building Beyond Brexit.  The programme brought together a variety of speakers all of whom offered a consistent underlying message. Their eminently sensible advice is to concentrate on things within your control, rather than worrying about what the outcome of Brexit may be.  

Ian McCafferty, who sits on the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, said the economy was slowly normalising following the last financial crisis, but is now having to absorb the consequences of leaving the EU, the impact of which will again be spread out over a long period.  His advice was not to pay too much attention to short term reports of Brexit negotiations, where there is a lot of game-playing by all parties.  Instead, focus on the fundamentals of business and don’t get distracted.  

The Confederation of British Industry (CBI), which is promoting transitional arrangements as the key to a good Brexit, has studied the views and actions of businesses in eighteen different sectors. Nicole Sykes, the CBI’s Head of Brexit Negotiations, told us that 60% of business are carrying on as normal. Some sectors have looked at contingency plans if there is no deal, but they seem unwilling to put them in place just yet.  

The CBI clearly wants to see a smooth exit, with barrier free EU trade, access to talent and people at all levels of the labour market and stability and certainty in regulations, but they also see opportunities from change.  As Nicole said, disruption can be a good thing when it leads to new ideas.  

How we view and use IT may be an area that could benefit from disruption.  Microsoft’s James Akrigg pointed out that traditionally IT spend has been heavily weighted towards data storage and back up, and maintenance of hardware.  Far less is spent on technology that can create value from that data, but should we now explore how IT can improve the customer’s experience to benefit our business?  

Three very different speakers - Housing and Planning Minister, Alok Sharma, Jaydon Silver of retirement home specialist McCarthy & Stone, and Arthur McArdle, National Vice President of the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) - focused on the strength of the housing market in their presentations.   

No-one can doubt that Brexit will continue to cause uncertainty for years rather than months. But trying to second guess the outcome of the current negotiations, is a fool’s errand.  A good business will survive and thrive no matter what comes to pass. Within our sector the ongoing need for new housing and housing upgrades looks set to continue, and we should concentrate on this as an opportunity for business growth.     

The article above featured in the October 2017 edition of Builders Merchants Journal
View from the Chair by Peter Hindle MBE, BMF Chairman, 15 October 2017 The AGM of the BMF at Members’ Day not only makes the BMF accountable to members, it also provides a useful opportunity to remind ourselves of the role of the Board, ie

The challenge continues    

John Newcombby John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive
18 August 2017

Coming just days after the General Election, the theme of our recent Conference, Change Challenge and Opportunity, could hardly have been more appropriate. The feedback from delegates confirmed that the speakers’ thought-provoking presentations continued to resonate as the attendees returned to business back home.  

In times of rapid change, It is more important than ever for the industry to have opportunities like this to come together  to consider not only the issues affecting them today but also those about to come over the horizon.  It will be interesting to see what the talking points are next summer when the industry meets on the stunning shores of Lake Maggiore for the NMBS All Industry Conference 2018.  

Staying on track  

Over the last five years the BMF has developed and implemented a strategy that has seen positive benefits for every sector of the building materials supply industry.  The result has been a surge in membership amongst general and specialist merchants and their suppliers of every size and in every part of the country.  In July, we welcomed our 600th member, swelling our numbers to their highest since 1995.  

This is a significant milestone. As the fourth largest construction trade organisation in the UK our views are increasingly sought by policy makers at every level of government. Our voice is also receiving greater exposure in both mainstream and digital media, helping to build wider understanding of the merchant industry  

As our membership grows we need to ensure that the BMF continues to meet their needs.  The BMF Board is tasked with challenging the status quo and making sure that our strategy is fit for purpose.  BMF board members serve a maximum term of six years and three new directors attended their first board meeting in July, which, coincidentally, met for the first time in Northern Ireland.  As we move forward holding board meetings in our new BMF Regional Centres of Excellence around the UK will help us to keep in touch with the wider BMF membership.  

Our three new directors, Andrew Harrison of Travis Perkins plc, Shanker Patel of Lords Group and Ian Haldane of the Haldane Shiells Group, bring a wide range of experience to the board and their varied backgrounds are in keeping with the BMF’s broad membership. Ian and Shanker have both overseen major growth within family-owned businesses operating in distinct areas.  Andrew has served in senior roles in both a large regional operation and in the UK’s largest merchant business. In his latest role, as Deputy CEO of TP's Plumbing and Heating Division, he will also add to the BMF’s understanding of a fast-growing cohort within our membership.  

Celebrating success  

This year, for the first time, we partnered with the FMB’s Master Builder of the Year Awards, to identify some of the best merchants in the country.  The Master Builder of the Year Awards celebrate the work of small and medium sized builders who have demonstrated excellence both in their standard of work and their customer service.  Similarly, the BMF Builders Merchant Award turns the spotlight on local merchants who have focused on customer service to drive new business growth.   We were delighted with the response and the quality of the entries and along with the FMB, we had a hard task selecting the six regional winners, listed below:  

Midlands                            E H Smith
North                                  Milford Building Supplies
Northern Ireland              Haldane Fisher
South                                  Parker Building Supplies
Scotland                             Beatsons Building Supplies
Wales                                  LBS Builders Merchants  

We wish them all luck as they go forward to the national final.  The overall winner will be announced at an Award Ceremony on 15 September and the BMF will be there, along with the six finalists, to celebrate their success.  

This article appeared in the July/August 2017 edition of Builders' Merchants News
John Newcomb
The challenge continues. Read John Newcomb's latest column which appeared in BMN July/August 2017. Coming just days after the General Election, the theme of our recent Conference, Change Challenge and Opportunity, could hardly have been more appropr

Market resilience

John Newcombby John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive
20 September 2017

Over the summer we have seen conflicting speculation in both the national and trade press on the general state of the economy and how the construction industry is faring.

For example, the BMF’s Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) recorded growth throughout the first half of the year, which on first viewing seems at odds with data issued by the Office of National Statistics (ONS) for Q2.

Whereas the initial ONS Q2 results reported that construction output rose by just 0.4% on the same period last year and fell by 1.3% compared with Q1 2017, the BMBI found that builders merchants saw Q2 sales increase by 5.3% (when adjusted for there being two less trading days in the period) compared to 2016, with year-to-date sales figures 3.8% higher than the same period last year.

Initial ONS data is often revised – which may have happened by the time you read this.  On the other hand, it may not be too much at odds with the BMBI and other indicators. Most of the other major trade association Q2 reports – including CPA, FMB and NFB – found that order books are being sustained by private housing and RMI work – the mainstay of many a merchant’s business – while commercial sectors are falling behind. Even the relatively gloomy ONS statistics reported a record 5.1% increase in private housing in June over May.

Having spent much of August on the road visiting 20 or so BMF members in the SW and NE of England and in Scotland, I think the merchant sector can best be described as resilient.  I found striking similarities across all the merchants I spoke to.  Every one of them reported sales growth through the first half of the year – even those in parts of the country affected by adverse weather conditions in the early summer months. 

However, whilst these regional merchants have seen little evidence of a slow down in overall sales they are reporting more price increases, an inevitable result of the falling exchange rate, and shortages in certain product areas. 

Future forecasts

Attempting to forecast the future is notoriously unreliable, but it would be foolish not to consider the possibility of tougher trading conditions as we move into 2018. Indeed, BMF Members’ Day this month is dedicated to exploring possible scenarios for the building industry in a post Brexit economy. We have lined up a wide range of speakers to give their views including a member of the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee, the CBI’s Brexit expert and the FMB’s Vice President. 

We are also delighted to welcome the Minister of State for Housing and Planning, Alok Sharma.  Mr Sharma is responsible for the government’s housing and home ownership policy as well as the planning policy which underpins it.  Other important parts of his portfolio include estates regeneration and regulation of the private rented sector.  With so much merchant business driven by housing, this session is not to be missed.


Next generation

The turn of the academic year is traditionally the time to take on apprentices. In May, the BMF formed an accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA).  As an ATA, the BMF acts as the formal employer of the apprentices, who are placed with member companies. By acting as the employer, the BMF ATA removes potential administrative hurdles making it easy for BMF members to take on an apprentice in any job role.

This is a hugely exciting initiative. We are currently in dialogue with over 40 member companies who are looking to develop their next generation of employees. This first tranche of enquiries alone could lead to 200 new apprentices joining the industry. 

Twenty one apprenticeships have already been confirmed, including the BMF’s own Level 2 Customer Service Practitioner.  We wish every one of them well in their future careers.

This article appeared in the September 2017 edition of Builders' Merchants News
Market resilience. Read John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive's latest blog which appeared in BMN September. Over the summer we have seen conflicting speculation in both the national and trade press on the general state of the economy and how the co

The European clock is ticking  

by Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager
8 September 2017

Brett AmphlettAs MPs returned to Westminster this week, it's a good time to outline the situation about leaving the European Union. Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, highlights the positions being taken below and explains what the BMF has been doing since the Prime Minister triggered the EU Article 50 clause. 

The main players

The formal negotiations began on 19 June. The UK team is led by David Davis MP, Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union, who was Minister for Europe in John Major’s Government. Mr Davis also chaired the Public Accounts Committee when Tony Blair was the Prime Minister.  

The EU Chief Negotiator, Michel Barnier, was the European Commissioner responsible for financial services and the internal market before taking up his current role. In France, Mr Barnier was elected to the National Assembly and served as a government minister including as French Foreign Minister. The European Parliament has a say in ratifying whatever proposals are hammered out. Its Chief Negotiator is Guy Verhofstadt MEP who is a former Belgian Prime Minister.  


The Conservative Government set out its proposals and the direction it wants to take in the Brexit White Paper published on 2 February. Following the General Election, the minority Conservative Government gave more details about legislative changes it wants to make; negotiating ‘red lines’; and future legal, tax and funding arrangements. Most of the proposals are well-known: (a) taking back control of our laws; (b) controlling immigration; (c) maintaining employment rights and consumer and environmental protection; and (d) trade agreements with Europe and other markets.  

The European Commission in Brussels has set out the collective views of the other 27 EU Member States. In essence, the negotiating positions can be boiled down, as follows:  

  • leaving the Single Market and the Customs Union entirely
  • taking Britain out of the jurisdiction of the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg·
  • no longer paying billions of pounds in EU financial contributions
  • bringing down net migration to tens of thousands
  • protecting the rights of British people who currently live and work in Europe (and vice-versa)
  • “no deal is better than a bad deal”.  

  • Britain cannot stay in either Single Market or Customs Union without sticking to ‘four freedoms’ laid down in EU treaties - namely freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital
  • UK must pay a financial ‘divorce’ settlement - a figure of €75 billion is often mentioned
  • negotiations must be done in sequence, not in parallel - talks on Britain’s departure and a financial settlement to be concluded first before the EU will talk about a future trade deal
  • deciding on method of resolving EU-UK disputes post-Brexit - i.e. European Court of Justice
  • prioritising the unique position between Northern Ireland and the Republic to avoid a ‘hard border’ and the reintroduction of border controls and customs’ checkpoints
  • protecting the rights of Europeans who currently live and work in UK (and vice-versa).  


In July, ministers published the EU Withdrawal Bill - often called “Great Repeal Bill” - as draft legislation for Parliament to scrutinise now that MPs are back. The aim is to pass a new Act of Parliament to incorporate existing EU Regulations and Directives into UK law so they apply after Brexit. Ministers also propose to give themselves the power to change secondary legislation.  

In the Queen’s Speech (21 June), 8 new pieces of draft legislation were announced. The most relevant to BMF members are a Trade Bill, a Customs Bill and an Immigration Bill:  

  • Trade Bill aims to boost the UK as a global trading nation; protect UK firms from unfair trading practices; and allow an independent trade policy to operate the day after Brexit
  • Customs Bill aims to introduce a customs’ regime to replace the EU Customs Union we currently belong to; allow for future deals with the EU and other world markets; and impose new British indirect taxes (current VAT will no longer apply because it is an EU tax)
  • Immigration Bill aims to abolish EU law on free movement and bring migration policy for EU people back under UK law to control the number of people coming here from Europe.

This article appeared in the Autumn 2017 edition of the BMF's One Voice magazine
As MPs returned to Westminster this week, it's a good time to outline the situation about leaving the European Union. Brett Amphlett, BMF Policy and Public Affairs’ Manager, highlights the positions being taken below and explains what the BMF has bee

BMF Young Merchant Trip to Milan, Italy

by James Spillane, BMF Training & Development Manager
20 July 2017

BMF Young Merchant trip to Mapei in MilanOn 29 June to 2 July, 13 BMF Young Merchants were hosted by Mapei group out in Milan to celebrate their 80th Birthday.

Day one saw an excellent welcome by Mapei in their headquarters in Milan. The group were welcomed by Roberto Vigo (Export Manager) and Birgit Brink from Marketing. Next followed a guided tour around Mapei Laboratories by Gino Kuijpers, Coatings Product Manager speaking to experts in each product range along the way. Products are examined and fine-tuned by state of the art machinery and high power microscopes to constantly improve existing products and innovate new ones. This is evident by the fact they have 9000 employees, of which 12% work in R&D. After this we visited Mapei’s production plant in Mediglia. This was a vast site which could have warranted the title of Mapei Town. More than 25,000 tons of products are shipped each day, 4.5 million tons per year. Here the group saw first-hand the production of cement, coatings, paint, adhesives and much more. Figure 1 YM Group at Mapei HQ.

Before finishing for the day we stopped off at 4BILD builders merchants at Cusano Milanino. The group had an opportunity to see how an Italian Builders Merchants premises and yard operated. We sat through a presentation from the owner of this particular merchant who explained 4BILD’s structure, something quite unique to Italy currently but common-place in the UK. 4BILD comprises of 11 franchises that pool together their buying power for more favourable prices on materials – very similar to Buying Group activity here at home but something that is unnatural for Italy whose merchants are owned by traditional family units who operate in an insular manner, wary of their competitors. 4BILD have taken the plunge and reaped the rewards having taken on board the ethos of “we are stronger together”.

In the evening we ate at Guyot restaurant which specialises in Milanese Risotto which was thoroughly enjoyed by all of the group.  

On the second day, we had an early start venturing out to Vila Del Balbianello on Lake Como. As the coach crawled through the hills to our destination we were treated to staggering views of the lake and surrounding mountains. Once we arrived at the Villa, which has seen films such as James Bond – Casino Royale and Star Wars filmed in its’ grounds, the group were in awe at the beauty of the place. Interestingly, Mapei were responsible for the coatings restoration on the building.

Following this, the coach dropped us on in Milan City Centre for free time where most of the group ate in the restaurants nestled between the impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II and the Duomo Cathedral. Dinner was served in the top floor of on the Galleria where we had cocktails made to order and a five course Italian feast.

A special thanks should be extended to Dave Jordan (Business Development Manager), Stefanie Bennett (Marketing Manager) and Phil Breakspear (Managing Director) of Mapei UK for pulling together a great trip in such a meticulous and enjoyable way. A great trip that will last long in the memory of the BMF Young Merchants who attended.              
BMF Training & Development Manager James Spillane reports on the BMF Young Merchants' trip to Milan in June 2017, hosted by Mapei

No content found

No content found

No content found

No content found

No content found

No content found

No content found

No content found