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From Hello to Goodbye – how good is your customer service?  

by Richard Ellithorne, Membership Services Director
19 June 2018



Richard EllithorneEvery merchant will say that customer service is essential to their business. But do they know what their customers really think of service they receive in branch?  

As Lynda Moore, head of talent management at Bradford Building Supplies, says: “We may think we do it well, but we can always do better.”  

Bradfords, which has over 40 branches serving south west England, used the BMF’s From Hello to Goodbye service to get a clear understanding of customer service at four of those branches and is using the report as a starting point for a targeted training programme for staff at all levels.  

From Hello to Goodbye
is one of three bespoke services that the BMF offers under its In-Branch Mentoring programme.  Jason Routley, who heads up the programme, has worked in every aspect of merchanting with TP and Builder Centre and has also experienced life on the other side of the counter running his own building company.  His background gives him a complete understanding of how the industry works.  

Jason spent half a day at each of Bradford’s nominated branches observing activities and interacting with staff and customers before drawing up a detailed, illustrated report for each one.   

Bradfords wanted to find out what they did well, so they could use examples of good practice elsewhere, to see if their people were engaged and enjoying their work, and to understand the areas they needed to work on and improve.  Jason was briefed to look at how they merchandised, what customer service was really like for the customer, how their people interacted with customers – were they helped or left alone – and overall what they did well and where and how could they improve.  

Lynda Moore says having someone from outside the business undertake this research was invaluable.  “We hadn’t come across this format before.  It sounds so simple, but it was a huge advantage to have Jason look at everything with fresh eyes. Our managers regularly visit all the branches but are so familiar with them, they may stop noticing things.  For example, parking at one branch may be a nightmare, but we just accept that and don’t think what effect it may have on customers.  

“By observing what was going on in each branch and asking staff to talk him through why they were doing something in a certain way, Jason was able to produce extremely detailed and insightful feedback, complete with photographs illustrating the points he made.  The images were very powerful and caused us to look at our branches in a different light.   

“He highlighted a lot of the good stuff that was going on, but his report has given us a springboard to do much more to improve.  We have clear parameters for some initial wins as well as those requiring a longer-term focus and will be creating a training programme for every member of staff involved.”  

From Hello to Goodbye is one of three bespoke in-branch services offered by the BMF.  The others focus on Effective Team Building and Selling Success.  

To find out more about BMF’s bespoke services or any other BMF course or apprenticeship, please contact BMF’s Membership Services Director at richard.ellithorne@bmf.org.uk or telephone 02476 854980.


This article appeared in the May 2018 edition of Professional Builders Merchant (PBM)
From Hello to Goodbye – how good is your customer service? Every merchant will say that customer service is essential to their business. But do they know what their customers really think of service they receive in branch?

Merchant overview - Q1 2018

by John Newcomb, Chief Executive, BMF
4 June 2018


John NewcombSitting in the sunshine we have all but forgotten the cold arctic blasts that swept the country in the first three months of the year. They certainly had an impact on construction and I think most will agree that 2018 got off to a slow start.  

The Office of National Statistics (ONS) have already revised their figures for the quarter up by 0.5 percentage points on their initial estimate, but they still show that overall output fell by 2.7% on the previous quarter.  Even private house building, which has long been the construction industry’s star performer saw the number of new house registrations in Q1 fall by 14% over the same period last year. 

However, the bigger picture is not all doom and gloom. The ONS statement also points out that construction output reached a record high in the final two months of 2017, and despite this quarter’s decrease output remains 22.7% above the sector’s low point of April 2013.  

House starts also picked up in April, with the IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index showing residential work growing at is strongest rate since May 2017, with activity resuming as soon as the March snows melted.  

The Federation of Master Builders’ (FMB) State of Trade Survey for Q1 2018 reported workloads for SME builders continued to grow slightly, albeit at a slower rate than for the previous quarter. Nonetheless the FMB survey has now recorded five years of continuous growth.  

However, increased material prices coupled with extended lead times remains the elephant in the room as far as SME builders are concerned. While some of the claimed lead times we have seen quoted for bricks in both the trade and national media are unlikely to stand up to robust investigation, merchants will be only too aware of the pressure on both prices and availability for imported timber, certain brick types and roof tiles. Despite this, FMB members continue to predict rising workloads in Q2, which is positive news for merchants.  

More positives can be taken from the annual Sunday Times BDO Profit Track 100, the league table which tracks Britain’s private companies with the fastest-growing profits. 25 of the top 100 companies are involved in construction and house building.  

To sum up, we are not writing off 2018 based on a relatively poor first quarter. We may not see the market grow at the same levels as 2017, but we remain confident that it will continue to grow.  


To view more about market data click here
Merchant overview - Q1 2018 by John Newcomb, Chief Executive, BMF. Sitting in the spring sunshine we have all but forgotten the cold arctic blasts that swept the country in the first three months of the year. They certainly had an impact on constr

The true meaning of European union  

by John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive
30 May 2018

John NewcombLast month I was honoured to be nominated for the position of President of Ufemat – the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufacturers.  I will be taking over this role in October, the same month that the withdrawal treaty governing the UK’s departure from the EU is due to be finalised.  

There is more than a little irony in the timing as Ufemat’s 60-year history is bound up with that of the EU.  Anticipating new regulations that could affect their business following the Treaty of Rome, national merchant trade bodies from the original six members of the European Economic Community came together to form Ufemat as a lobby group to promote their interests.  Today it represents 19 national trade bodies as well as some of Europe’s largest building materials manufacturers and is respected by European legislators for its representation of building materials supply throughout Europe.  

Trading post Brexit  

Whatever Brexit brings, it is more important than ever for the BMF to have a voice in Europe.  At least 20% of our building materials are imported from Europe, many of our members are part of European-owned businesses and the BMF’s Irish members will still be operating as part of the EU.  And, of course, the UK also exports products to Europe.  We are well and truly meshed together. A great many products will continue to cross our borders and, needless to say, our European colleagues share our concerns as to what will replace the current customs union.  

The impact of Brexit will be high on the agenda at Ufemat’s annual conference in Lisbon in October, where John Sinfield, MD of Knauf Insulation, will present a materials producer’s view.  The BMF has taken a small group of UK merchants to the last two annual conferences.  With Brexit to the fore this year, we anticipate larger numbers from the UK attending and it is a great opportunity to speak with their opposite numbers around Europe.  

The merchant mix  

The way merchants operate across the 19 member countries varies greatly.  Several are comparable to the UK with a mix of national and regional groups as well as smaller independents.  Others, like Italy, are almost entirely served by small family-owned businesses.  Similarly, large buying groups play an important role in some countries, while merchants purchase directly from materials producers in others.  

Perhaps because of this diversity, no-one has yet undertaken a study into the total size of the building materials market in Europe.  I will be prioritising this during my term as President, as defining the extent and financial power of the market will undoubtedly have a positive impact on Ufemat’s central lobbying role.

Like the BMF, Ufemat promotes networking and learning from each other.  It is particularly keen to broaden the experience and horizons of young people in our industry.  The BMF’s Young Merchant group has taken advantage of this with overseas trips to Ufemat members in Berlin and Milan where they visited manufacturing facilities and merchants to learn more about the markets in those countries.  

Common challenges  

Over the last ten years the building materials market throughout Europe has experienced similar cycles bringing common challenges.  While price rises linked to currency fluctuations may affect the UK more than others, virtually all markets are experiencing shortages of certain building materials and their customers face a shortage of qualified labour. Poor quality counterfeit products reaching the market through non-merchant channels is another issue facing the whole of Europe, and we are all seeking to differentiate the merchant’s specialist service from often unreliable, online market places.  

What also remains the same in every country is the partnership between merchants and marterials’ producers and the added value service merchants provide for their contractor customers.   

How they deliver that service will undoubtedly change over the coming decade and Ufemat is a useful forum to share best practice, for example in digitising sales systems or creating an omnichannel customer experience.  Ufemat is also looking at blue sky ideas such as large scale consolidation and distribution centres to optimise logistics in large cities and reduce CO2 emissions. This would obviously require a new kind of partnership between merchants and others in the building chain, but it is clear that the current system is unsustainable in the medium to long term.   Becoming President is both an honour and a challenge, but I am looking forward to supporting and guiding Ufemat as we enter a further period of change and development.  

For more information on Ufemat visit www.ufemat.eu  


This article appeared in the May edition of Builders' Merchants News (BMN)
BMF blog: The true meaning of European union by John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive. Last month John was honoured to be nominated for the position of President of Ufemat – the European Association of National Builders Merchants Associations and Manufa

BMF: Responsive, influential and effective 

22 May 2018
by Peter Hindle, BMF Chairman


Peter Hindle MBEIn an ever-changing world political representation is vital and advocating members interests with policy makers and legislators is an increasingly important aspect of the BMF’s work.  Our latest Member Survey revealed that over 80% of BMF’s merchant members and 86% of supplier members place high value on this service.  
Last year we pro-actively and effectively campaigned to focus government attention on tackling the issue of late payments, which formed part of their Spring Statement.  We are now working to ameliorate the unintended consequences of proposed charges on vehicles entering five cities introducing new Clean Air Zones.  We have taken local members to meet with councils in Birmingham and Leeds to discuss our concerns and put forward suggestions to help overcome them.  Stemming from this, Andy Street, the first Mayor of the West Midlands, visited BMF in Coventry in May and speaking at Members’ Day in September.

We also play a prominent role in three special interest groups at Westminster, with BMF representatives sitting on All-Party Parliamentary Groups covering Apprenticeships, Timber and Women at Work.  

Housing agenda  

With the Government pushing for 300,000 new dwellings a year, housing is high on the political agenda, and we are taking advantage of this to promote the vital role played by our industry in the house building process.  Our core message is that homes cannot be erected or improved without the products that our members supply, and that merchants remain the most efficient route to market for those products.  

This involves a high degree of engagement with politicians of all colours, many of whom have little understanding of how materials get from quarries, forests and factories to building sites. 

In 2017, we directly engaged with more than 115 MPs including the then Housing Minister and current Employment Minister, Alok Sharma, who spoke at Members’ Day, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, one of four MPs to visit BMF merchants in the last 12 months, and Liberal Democrat leader, Vince Cable, sharing a platform with him at a round table event at last year’s party conference. 

Last month, with our 110th anniversary as trade association as a catalyst for the occasion, we held our first Parliamentary Reception in the House of Commons to garner support from an even wider cohort of MPs.   A broad cross section of members attended to support our message at this extremely successful event.   

Strength in numbers  

The BMF’s work with devolved administrations is gaining traction too. This will become even more important in a post-Brexit environment and we are putting more resources here to support members in those areas.  A public affairs consultant for Wales has been in place for the past 18 months and we are recruiting others to develop our work in Scotland and Northern Ireland.   

The BMF is now the largest trade association in the building materials sector and our voice is growing in influence. With a membership covering distributors and manufacturers of building materials, our views are regularly sought on the availability of materials and skilled labour amongst other industry issues and we are playing an important role in managing expectations. Working together we have a far greater impact to effect change than individual companies working in isolation - as other sectors, notably the motor industry, have demonstrated.  

The BMF has earned its place as the trusted “go-to” organisation for national, devolved and local government seeking the industry’s view.  Be assured our members’ views are now heard by politicians of all parties.  


This article was featured in the May edition of Builders Merchants Journal (BMJ)
BMF Chairman Peter Hindle talks about how, in an ever-changing world, political representation is vital and advocating members interests with policy makers and legislators is an increasingly important aspect of the BMF’s work.

Change, Challenge and Opportunity

15 May 2018

Richard EllithorneRichard Ellithorne, Membership Services Director of the BMF outlines the merchants’ perspective on the timber market  

Timber is an important product group for generalist builders’ merchants as well as dedicated timber merchants. It is stocked by over 250 of the BMF’s 340 merchant members and accounts for around 20% of their business making it the second largest product category, in terms of turnover, behind heavy building materials.  Furthermore, timber and wood products are frequently the most profitable area for generalist merchants in terms of margin performance.  As such it is a sector that the BMF is keen to promote and support.  

The BMF is in a unique position to bring together merchants and suppliers to advance this technical product group.  For example, since 2014 we have run twice-yearly Timber Forums, open to any member with an interest in timber, to share best practice, disseminate information, hear from experts in the industry and gather views on legislation, product and building standards or other issues that may affect trading.  

BMF Timber Forums, which are run in collaboration with the Timber Trade Federation (TTF), have proved extremely popular with BMF members.  Stemming out of our forums, is another joint initiative with TTF, a bi-annual information digest, Timber Forum News, bringing up to date timber news and expert guidance to all BMF members selling timber and timber products.  The latter initiative is particularly designed to help merchants to maximise their sales.  

Strong performer

Timber has been a strong performer in recent years.  The BMF’s Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report, which uses the research company GfK’s point of sale tracking data drawn from over 80% of builders merchant sales throughout the country, found that overall merchant sales in 2017 finished 4.8% ahead of 2016 by value, with Timber and Joinery outperforming the average, growing by 5.4%.  The positive story has continued in January 2018 with total merchant sales up by 8.4% on January 2017, and Timber & Joinery products showing a 9% increase. 

With the lion’s share of merchant sales driven by the housing market, the BMBI results can appear out of kilter with headline figures from the Office of National Statistics (ONS).  The reason for this can be seen in the Government’s continued support for private housebuilding and the fact that private domestic RMI work has held up well to date, while the commercial and industrial sectors, also included in the ONS data, have both seen a sharp decline since the vote for Brexit.  That said, while the strength of the sectors that builders’ merchants operate within has generated some growth, price inflation has also been a contributing factor to the rise in sales value, and it is one of the big issues for timber this year. 

We are mindful that price rises, together with a number of other factors could impact on trading throughout 2018.  Initial reports have shown a weakening in new housebuilding and there are renewed concerns over skilled worker shortages which could affect output.  Interest rates are also expected to rise sooner and faster than previously predicted, thereby increasing the cost of borrowing, potentially affecting consumer confidence and thus the RMI market.  

Challenges and opportunities

Merchants who stock timber now face a challenging period, with price inflation at a pace rarely seen before compounded by reduced availability and extended lead times for both UK and imported timber affecting almost every product area.   

The softwood market is ever-more affected by global trends.  Price rises here are not solely down to the depreciation of sterling.  They are being driven up by expanding markets in the US and China adding to the already firm consumption in traditional markets to create extremely high demand.  We are concerned by reports that shortages will begin to hit UK merchants in April, with further price rises predicted from this time. The story is the same in the panel sector, with price rises from UK, Irish and European MDF and OSB producers.  Global plywood markets are also under inflationary pressure.  For example, US demand for South American softwood ply led to a 30% increase in a year.  With other markets prepared to pay more than the UK, the situation shows no signs of stabilising any time soon.  

In tough trading times, initiatives like the BMF Timber Forum are especially relevant.  Agenda items for the next meeting, on 27 June, include presentations on Merchant Timber Sales in a Challenging Market, and Plywood – How to Buy Better.  

While it is likely that merchants will have to face challenges head on for some time to come, it is important that the industry presents a united front to campaign for supportive policy and market frameworks.  The BMF regularly arranges visits by MPs to merchants in their constituency to see how building materials in the supply chain delivers for local communities.  In addition, along with TTF, the British Woodworking Federation (BWF) and the Structural Timber Association (STA), the BMF is part of the renewed Confederation of Timber Industry (CTI), which acts an umbrella organisation to grow the UK timber industry as well as promoting ethical and sustainable sourcing.   

Responsible purchasing has long been one of the BMF’s key goals for the industry and we have partnered with WWF’s Global Forest and Trade Network in the UK (GFTN-UK) to promote responsible forest trade throughout the merchant supply chain.  Many merchants already consider sustainability as a matter of course, but we have a responsibility to encourage every one of them to do so.  GFTN-UK can help them ask the right questions to find out where their products are coming from, so they will know if they are sourcing from sustainable forests.  

We also support the Grown in Britain campaign, to give merchants information and ideas for making the most of the British timber in their supply chains and grow their timber business, both pre and post Brexit.

Developing markets

Despite the challenges in the current market, builders’ merchants are looking to expand the range of timber products they offer.  Along with TTF we undertook a survey of BMF merchants in 2017 to find out which products they sold and which they believed had the greatest potential for growth.   Engineered Timber was seen as having the greatest potential, which came a surprise as relatively few merchants were selling these products at the time.   Softwood was seen as another area for growth.   

Within engineered timber products there is a huge opportunity for specialist providers to partner with merchants to meet the specification needs of their customers, for example with i-joists, trusses, glulam and timber frame.  Even those who don’t hold stock want to be able to support customers with a specific request by working with supply partners to provide a quote and win the business with products that are fit for the purpose. 

The survey also found that merchants wanted more education and training to help with sales of timber in key product areas.  In response, the BMF and TTF are running a series of free CPD accredited skills development sessions for their members covering topics from plywood and preservatives to responsible purchasing and regulation.   

People power

Merchant competitiveness relies on having the best people in addition to the best product selection and keen marketing acumen.  Our aim is to secure high-quality skills for the future development of the merchant industry.  This year the BMF is introducing its new Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard.  This is the first apprenticeship to be developed by people who actually work in our industry and is set to become the sector’s primary Level 2 qualification, ensuring new entrants have up-to-date workplace skills that are fully relevant to their merchant employer’s business.  

Builders merchants will remain an important distribution channel in the overall construction market, with timber and wood products growing in importance, despite the challenging times facing us this year.  The BMF will continue to work with our timber industry partners to support our members and promote timber solutions.



This aticle appeared in the April edition of Timber Trades Journal (TTJ)
Richard Ellithorne, Membership Services Director of the BMF outlines the merchants’ perspective on the timber market

Marketers ruin everything  

Peter Sumpton (left) and John Newcombby Peter Sumpton (Marketing Study Lab and Head of Marketing at IKO)
11 May 2018

I have been in Marketing my entire career, through education and then into the professional world, and at the heart of it, it is true – marketers ruin everything! It is not a necessary evil however, as this statement only tells half the story. It is a profession that is very much misunderstood and can be easily overlooked if not careful.  

As a Marketer it pains me to say those words, Marketers ruin everything, but behind this pained expression is a slight smirk at the fact that Marketers ruin everything, as this means that if you are in the marketing profession you must have a little piece of entrepreneurship inside of you. This also means that we have our fingers on the pulse of what is going on in our own industries or across multiple industries, always looking out for the latest trends, technologies and fads, the ones that hold the most attention, the attention of our target markets, the ones we want to influence the most and subsequently get them to know, like and trust us as an organisation that is worth doing business with.  

But what do I mean by ‘ruin everything’ and how can this statement, a statement that on the surface sounds like a negative comment, be turned into such a positive attribute.  

Let’s break it down.  

Through the ages great inventions have come along that have allowed us to communicate with one another in ever increasingly intrusive ways;  

Print
The newspaper or magazine was a great way of communicating, on mass, the latest newsworthy stories. Along comes marketing and includes adverts, advertorials, offers and promotions that dominate most publications today.  
Radio
A way of broadcasting topical content and news items, taken over by more commercial stations supported by promotional segments that can last minutes - getting in the way of your listening pleasure.  

Television
Mixing audio and visual, where some of the most iconic moment we can remember took place – Olympics, Moon landings, royal weddings, etc, etc. These items are now being replaced by infomercials and even channels dedicated to shopping.  

Digital
Where to begin. What was started as a way of accessing files over computers has been replaced by skyscraper banner ads, eshots about losing weight and videos of cats with hats!  

And finally, Voice
This seems to be the next communication frontier and it seems like we are yet to ruin this for anyone, or haven’t we? If you ask your friendly voice activated bit of kit to order toothpaste from Amazon, what will you get? What brand will it choose for you? Perhaps your favourite? Or perhaps the one that pays the most money to have their brand of toothpaste set up as the default option…. See we’ve already ruined that and you probably didn’t even notice!  

Marketing is brilliant though
It is a cynical view on Marketers to say we ruin everything, because good marketing, researched, studies, well-placed, strategically thought-out marketing can only be a good thing. It is the attention grabbing communications that we can’t live without. We get all the information we want, when we want it, to make a valid decision in order to resolve a problem or issue we may have and although we are now almost bombarded with messages 24/7, it is this content we actively seek and have given our permission to be sent, that is where marketing has its place and can be most effective.  

Good content, to a targeted audience, over the correct media channels.  

Marketers, can’t live with them, can’t live without them!  

The importance or learning, marketing and colouring in  
Education is vitally important regardless of the industry you are in; don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. That is the main reason I started Marketing Study Lab, as my 5-9 project (alongside my 9-5 profession as Head of Marketing for IKO).  

From an educational perspective same can be said for the Marketing profession, which can be frustratingly known as the ‘Colouring in Department’, but those that choose this unfitting phrase are doing a disservice to not only those that work in the profession, but to themselves and possibly their business, as Marketing is both an art and science that we are all influenced by whether we like to think we are or not and this influence and have a dramatic impact on your business if performed correctly.  

Anyway, back to the importance of education within Marketing.  

Where you get your education from is another matter and one that has multiple channels and options to be explored. In general, our current educational system is very linear, structured and systematic and although offering the potential of good grades for those that are academic, once this is over and you are out of the educational system, what next? Where do you turn? No one prepared you for this? Which is why it is important to never stop learning, never stop learning through other methods and means. Here are just a few snippets into some educational methodologies that I feel work really well regardless of your background:  

Just Do It
Learning by doing is fundamental within a digital world. Methods of communication change so quickly now that if we are not testing and learning from this testing, then we get left behind.  

Mentoring
Learning from others through schemes such as mentorships can pay dividends to your Marketing education and your career. Getting advice from someone who has been there and done it can be invaluable. Learn from the best.  

Apprenticeship
Apprenticeships are again one way of learning by doing, with the backup of a structured system or pathway.  

I was fortunate enough to sit down with John Newcomb for a brief chat and discuss different educational methods that are now available via the BMF as well as his career to date, the importance of Marketing and how it has helped the BMF double its membership and what the BMF can and does do for its members on a wider scale. Here are just some snippets of what was a very enlightening little chat from Episode 2 of the Marketing Study Lab (If you build it, they will come)!


Extracts
John Newcomb, BMF CEO talks about how important an education is and why the BMF are advocates of apprenticeships. Click here to listen (1:55)
What the BMF IS and DOES for its most valuable asset - its members. Click here to listen (1:47)
John Newcomb talks about his career to date and where is all began. Click here to listen (2:20)

To hear the podcast in full click here (26:52)
Peter Sumpton (Marketing Study Lab and Head of Marketing at IKO) talks about marketing, lifelong learning and apprenticeships. This includes a podcast with BMF CEO John Newcomb

Data Protection: the clock is ticking

By Andy Flinn, RDS Global, supplier of BMF's GDPR and Cyber Audit Plus Services
23 April 2018  



Andy FlinnThe General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will become law on 25 May 2018. That’s just over a month from now. If you have been meaning to do something about this for the past 12 months and have yet to take action, the clock is most definitely ticking. No matter what the size of your business, data protection is about to become your single biggest business risk. There are legal and financial penalties for those who chose to ignore the new laws.  

That’s the bad news. The good news is that you still have time to take action and doing so is not as scary as may seem. As the company behind the BMF’s Cyber Audit Plus service, RDS Global can help put your business on the right track, starting with an internal audit of your data records.  This not only gives you legal support to say that you have started the compliance process, but also gives you a detailed understanding of an action plan to make you compliant with the new law.  

What is GDPR?
The new law governs the way we hold, process, store and manage personal data.  It relates to the data files, internal business processes and controls, and the way you run your business.  

How is Data defined?
Data is information relating to any person resident in the UK or EU.  Data is often thought of as just computer records, but the GDPR includes all paper-based records as well. Data may be passed to you by customers and suppliers alike, and vice versa.  Companies in countries all over the world will need to comply with the new GDPR if they want to do business with us.  

An internal audit will help to establish what personal data you hold, where it is held, where it came from, how it was collected, what evidence you have that it has been collected and processed legally, with whom it has been shared (both internally and externally), on what terms it has been bought or licensed, whether and where it has been archived or deleted and who is responsible for its safekeeping.  

What should I do now?
You need to establish what data you hold, where it is, who has access to it, whether you have permissions to use or process this data, and how securely you protect data. You then need to purge all non-compliant data, or seek explicit permission to continue to hold it. Note that data held for a legitimate business purpose, such as support under product warranty, is allowed.  

The next step is to ensure that all new data created from this point forward is dealt with in accordance with GDPR.  RDS Global can assist here.  We also check legal contracts, their compliance with GDPR and the power and obligations held within such contracts, terms and conditions etc.  We can also advise on reviewing your supply chain to ensure that the people you are dealing with are also, or are about to become, compliant. Otherwise it will be like filling a bucket with water, only to find it has a hole in the bottom.  

There is a cost for this service, but it is an essential investment. GDPR compliance will become a requirement before you do business with any other compliant business from 25 May onwards.  Non-compliance could prevent you from trading – a far higher cost.  

RDS Global are accredited as Gold Certified Partners of IASME, who are one of the governing bodies approved by UK GOV. If you would like to discuss the next steps to GDPR compliance for your business, feel free to get in touch on 03330 2211 244. Or drop us an email at sales@rds.global    


This article appeared in Business Helpdesk in the April 2018 edition of BMJ
Data Protection: the clock is ticking by Andy Flinn, RDS Global, supplier of BMF's GDPR and Cyber Audit Plus Services. GDPR will become law on 25 May 2018. That’s just over a month from now. If you have been meaning to do something about this for

Tomorrow’s leaders  

by James Spillane, BMF Training & Development Manager
16 April 2018



James SpillaneThe BMF is calling for applicants for its fourth Postgraduate Diploma in Merchant Leadership and Strategy course, which is planned to start in May 2018. This unique course, run by Birmingham City University, is aimed at experienced managers workig for a BMF merchant or supplier member company.  

Despite the course name, candidates don’t have to hold a first degree to apply. It is open to senior managers with a minimum of five years’ experience, and credit will be given for that experience. There is a formal selection process, which includes a written submission and interview, but that shouldn’t put anyone off applying. Since its introduction in 2015, over 30 people completed the course.  Many had not studied since their school days but, so far, all have achieved their qualification.  

The 12 month part-time course covers five modules and combines a programme of self-study combined with seven two-day workshops.  Studying alongside their normal day job does take commitment and organisation, but candidates have the benefit of immediately applying the knowledge they gain to benefit both their personal development and their business.  

Marc Lucock, Human Resource and Training Director at Selco, had such a positive experience he is already looking to sign up for the BMF’s Masters Degree, which all course graduates are entitled to do.  

Marc said: “Despite some initial reservations of going back into a classroom environment this course has been truly enjoyable and beneficial to how I tackle daily work challenges. The various module topics have enabled me to think differently in my role and how I manage my team. As well as improvements in these areas I also have a better understanding of theories and frameworks that help me predict and interpret current business challenges and how I should go about solving them. I’ve met with a great group of people from various merchant backgrounds and it has been well worth the effort of attending and completing the various assignments. I would encourage anyone who is sceptical of this qualification to give it a go as the content is very relevant and the lecturers are knowledgeable and have a great understanding of our industry.”    

The course is equally relevant to managers working in merchant or supplier companies. Another graduate, Samantha Hanks, National Key Account & Specification Manager for Cembrit UK, explained:  “As a supplier, the BMF Postgraduate Diploma in Leadership and Strategy was hugely valuable for my business as well as my own personal development. It enabled me to see the merchant business in greater depth and critically analyse my own business. The knowledge was imparted through modules dealing with Strategy & Branding, Leading Service & Change, Finance & Business Models and Operational Improvement and Innovation, culminating in an In-company project that produced a practical and tangible area of focus relating to my company. Throughout the year-long course, I gained a greater awareness and appreciation for colleagues and their roles and with the enhanced knowledge I gained I had the confidence to recommend change and improvements back in the business.  Of course, being awarded my Postgrad Diploma by Birmingham City University and graduating in the impressive Birmingham Symphony Hall was a major plus too!”  

This year’s course is again being sponsored by the Builders Merchants Training Trust who have generously agreed to subsidise the £5,500 cost for merchant candidates by 50%, resulting in a fee of only £2,750.   With the deadline for applications fast approaching, anyone interested should immediately contact me at james.spillane@bmf.org.uk or call 02476 854989.

Click here for more information about the BMF's many other training courses.



This article appeared in the April 2018 edition of PBM.

James Spillane, BMF Training & Development Manager calls for applicants for its fourth Postgraduate Diploma in Merchant Leadership and Strategy course, which is planned to start in May 2018. This unique course, run by Birmingham City University....

Interesting times  

by BMF CEO John Newcomb
10 April 2018


John NewcombWhile purporting to be a Chinese blessing, the expression “May you live in interesting times” is in fact a curse. It is always used ironically, with the clear implication that 'uninteresting times', of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones. In business, however, periods of disruption – rather than disorder – are a good thing, which frequently result in a highly positive outcome.  

There are signs that we could be at the start of such a period right now, with the announcement that Parkers, currently number 18* in the builders’ merchant top 20 by turnover, has been acquired by Cairngorm Capital Partners who have already announced ambitious growth goals for the next five years.  With no family members coming through to take over from him, it made sense for Tom Parker to sell the business he founded and we wish the new owners and Parkers’ management team every success.   

I suspect many are wondering if this is the beginning of a wider trend, as venture capital actively targets a thriving merchant industry with significant future growth prospects.  Several other leading independent merchants are also looking to private investment companies to help them grow their businesses.  Huws Gray, the 6th* largest group, is among the latest to put a significant shareholding up for sale to fund major expansion plans, while MKM, the largest independent builders merchant, has been working with private investment partners for some time.  

There are likely to be more announcements like this, but it won’t be a path that every independent will choose to take.  Fortunately, there is space for merchants of all sizes, and ownership, within the market place.  As the BMF celebrates its own landmark anniversaries (110 years as a trade association and 40 as a Federation), some of our members are beating us hands down in the longevity stakes.  For example, Elliott’s has remained a family-run business for more than 175 years, or six generations.  Others, like Chandler Material Supplies who were named Independent Merchant of the Year (1-10 branches) in last year’s BMN Awards, now have the fourth generation of the family on board. At the same Awards, Lauren Penney, daughter of current MD, Julie Chandler, won Trainee of the Year.  

Young merchants  

Investing in their people is key to the success of any business.  Our industry is constantly developing and more than ever we need the drive, ambition, imagination and skills of the next generation of merchants to carry it forward.  The BMF plays an important role here, not just through the formal management and leadership courses we offer, but also through the informal support network of the BMF Young Merchants Group.  

Formed some 25 years ago, the Group was established to nurture the development of young merchants and suppliers by providing a forum for ideas and expertise to be shared, to help individuals and businesses grow.  Many of its early members now hold director or MD positions, with one, Knauf Insulation’s John Sinfield, having also chaired the Construction Products Association.  

The Group’s core purpose remains the same today, providing opportunities to build long-lasting business relationships, join in open debates, receive presentations from a wide variety of business speakers and take a wealth of knowledge back to their companies – and, of course, there is also a social element!  Not surprisingly, the value placed on the Group by former and current members is unanimously positive.   

On 11 October, during UK Construction Week at the NEC, we will be holding our very first Young Merchants Conference; confirmation that the Group has not only come of age but will continue to play a crucial role in supporting future generations as they move the business of merchanting forward.  

The programme details for the Young Merchants Conference will be announced over the coming weeks.  Make sure you hear them first by registering your interest with BMF Training Manager, James Spillane at james.spillane@bmf.org.uk  


* Source: PBM UK Merchant Sector Top 20 January 2018



This article appeared in the April edition of BMN

Interesting times by BMF CEO John Newcomb. While purporting to be a Chinese blessing, the expression “May you live in interesting times” is in fact a curse. It is always used ironically, with the clear implication that 'uninteresting times', of pe

Why built environment marketing needs to get personal  

by Dianne Lucas, Managing Director of CMDI (a BMF member)
3 April 2018


Dianne LucasPersonalised marketing has been around for years, but now it’s more personal – and needed –than ever.  

Over 42% of UK marketers identified “personalisation” as one of their top priorities last year, according to The Chartered Institute of Marketing. Because the penny’s finally dropped among B2B marketers that it’s not a “business” who receives their communications. It’s a person.  

B2B has become P2P, as marketers capitalise on the fact that only by understanding the person – or “Persona” – that you’re targeting can your marketing hit the mark, and not the bin.  

If personal marketing isn’t already top of your 2018 to-do list, here’s how to fast-track it with CMDi’s Persona Builder methodology.  

First, you need to build a case based on facts to ensure your Board both understands and supports this P2P approach. For instance, evidence is now widely available to support the need to dump a B2B one-size-fits-all approach. The Boston Consulting Group found that brands which create personalised experiences are seeing a revenue increase of up to 10% – and up to three times more quickly than those who don’t. Help is always available here from sector experts, such as CMDi.

Second, create an internal P2P team who can help share your P2P transformation objectives across your marketing, communications and customer services. Make sure this team includes a professional external partner, such as CMDi, who can guide you through this process from start to finish. 

Next, review your customer data. You need to have a clear picture of who your customers are, what knowledge gaps exist, and how well your current CRM can handle a transition to deeper segmentation. This may also be the time to review your overall approach to CRM.

Once you have gathered the facts about your customers and how they are currently segmented, you need to develop a Persona building research programme. This is the most effective foundation to ensure you segment your most valuable customers based on real facts and deep insights.

After your customer Personas have been built, you then need to develop a Persona-based approach to your communications by linking your newly created customer Personas to touchpoints, channels and a clearly developed path to purchase/specification maps. This is all about removing buy-barriers and increasing attraction. Remember, this needs to be as much about messaging as media: you must ensure that new communications are developed that press the most effective buttons which were uncovered in your insight-building research phase. 

Finally, ensure that customer feedback loops are built into the roll-out so you can obtain new insights and allow your Personas to develop and grow organically This form of real-time marketing ensures you match new needs as they arise and has exponential value activating your business at the right time, in the right place, at the right moment, with the right offer. 

As markets become even more overcrowded, and most communication messages become just noise, only those building and construction brands which recognise the value of treating consumers as individual people will be the ones to achieve a real advantage – and only if they get the approach right and are fully committed to it.

Watch Netflix’s example 

Netflix has built its success on a personalised algorithm that suggests relevant content to viewers. By tracking its users’ viewing history, the business builds a detailed picture of customer tastes and preferences.  

The company recently took this approach to the next level by creating personalised ‘preview’ adverts. These select and show a trailer for a series or film based on a user’s viewing habits, ensuring the content promoted is relevant to each user.  

These subtle elements of personalisation make users feel that Netflix knows them in a genuine way. Strong recommendations increase the amount of time viewers spend watching content on Netflix and minimise subscriber churn.  According to a paper published by Netflix executives, the company claims its AI-assisted recommendation system saves the company $1 billion per year. As one of the most successful digital content platforms in the world, Netflix exemplifies how getting relevance right is key to successful business strategy.  

Creating valuable and authentic connections with customers has never been more important, and should be at the top of any built environment marketer’s strategy for 2018.

For more information about CMDi call 01483 546 900 or email connect@cmdi.co.uk  

Consultants to the BMF, CMDi Managing Director Dianne Lucas says personalised marketing has been around for years, but now it’s more personal – and needed –than ever. Over 42% of UK marketers identified “personalisation” as one of their top priorit

Bucking the trend  

21 March 2018
by John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive


John NewcombOnce again, sales through builders’ merchants appear to be bucking the general construction trend.   By the end of February, the Office of National Statistics (ONS), the Construction Products Association (CPA), and our own Builders Merchants Building Index (BMBI) had each published performance figures for the final quarter of 2017. The headlines around the ONS and CPA stats spoke of construction output falling in the last three months of the year, with output forecast to remain flat in 2018. In contrast, the BMBI found that builders merchants sales in Q4 2017 outperformed the same period in 2016, with sales values increasing in every category. The story was much the same when comparing builders merchants sales during the whole of 2017 with 2016, with every major category reporting growth, notably a 5.1% increase for the largest product category, heavy building materials.  

The difference is down to the performance of the sectors mainly served by builders merchants. While private housebuilding is forging ahead, assisted by Help to Buy, and private domestic RMI work is holding up well, the same cannot be said for the commercial and industrial sectors, which have seen a sharp decline post Brexit, largely due to a lack of clarity as to future requirements.  

Fortunately for merchants, the lion’s share of their sales is driven by the housing market, both new build and RMI.  In both these sectors the ONS and CPA figures concur with the BMBI which found total merchant sales in Q4 2017 were up by 6.3% on Q4 2016. This is in line with the ONS report of continued growth in new private housing, up by 8.7% in Q4 2017 over the same period in 2016, with private housing RMI also up by 2.6%. The CPA was quoted saying that private housing output is now 28.8% higher than its pre-recession peak. By contrast, commercial output is 26.4% below its historic high, whilst industrial output is 28.5% lower.  

Will these trends continue in 2018? On the plus side, the Bank of England, predicted to raise interest rates twice more this year, appears to have the confidence to now move towards normalising monetary policy. However, we have yet to see the full impact of Carillion’s demise, particularly on their many thousands of sub-contractors.  If a significant number go to the wall, the effect is likely to be felt by every sector of the building and construction industry.    

Data protection  

Meanwhile, something that we are sure will happen this year is the implementation of the General Data Protection Regulations in May. These introduce greater protection of personal information but place a greater responsibility on businesses to secure that data.  

Many merchants will already have plans in place to be certified compliant by the deadline. For those who would like further support, the BMF has a new Cyber Security service which will help members to reinforce information security and comply with the new regulations, while Halborns, who provide BMF Intelligent Employment Plus, are offering a GDPR HR Toolkit. We are also running a half day training course on 22 March to explain the issues and help delegates to move towards the solutions. To find out more, or to book your place on this timely training course email james.spillane@bmf.org.uk or click here to book online.  



This article appeared in the March 2018 edition of BMN
Bucking the trend. John Newcomb, BMF Chief Executive says that once again, sales through builders’ merchants appear to be bucking the general construction trend....

Apprenticeships rewritten  

by Carmen Daley, BMF Apprenticeships Plus
15 March 2018

Carmen DaleyThe BMF is making giant strides to transform apprenticeships in the merchant industry.  With our accredited Apprenticeship Training Agency (ATA) and a new division, BMF Apprenticeship Plus, we are helping members gain maximum benefit from the opportunities created by the Government’s apprenticeship reforms.   Carmen Daley, who runs the BMF Apprenticeship Plus programme, explains what’s new.  

Last year the Government took the book on Apprenticeships and shredded it. A better way to think of Apprenticeships now is as a means to train - or develop further – staff at any level, whether they are new or existing employees. These changes come at a time when the challenges faced by the industry mean staff need to be well trained and upskilled more than ever.   

The new reforms, however brilliant, don’t come without complexities, employer responsibilities and time-consuming administration. The BMF Apprenticeships team manage these on behalf of members.  We oversee all aspects of Apprenticeship learning, such as Levy management, recruitment, contracting of Training Providers and learner monitoring and reporting.  We can even employ Apprentices on behalf of members through the BMF ATA. Whilst this service is new to BMF members, it is not new to us.  We have been working with the Electrical Distributors Association for over six years and employ 400 Apprentices on behalf of their members.

Carmen is passionate about apprenticeships, and her goal is to encourage more people to join the industry, including young women, who are often hesitant when they call. 

If someone says, ‘Can I apply for the Driving Apprenticeship’, I know what’s coming next …’I wasn’t sure if girls could’.  

I love any opportunity to introduce people to this industry, and if it is someone who thought they might not be welcome, then it is even better. I tell them about the many BMF members who focus only on talent and enthusiasm. I explain that historically, yes, we might have been a male-dominated industry, but that is changing.

There may be a long way to go to bring greater numbers of female candidates into the industry but Carmen believes Apprenticeships are an excellent conduit for doing so.  

This year also sees the introduction of the new Trade Supplier Apprenticeship Standard, which – in another first for the industry - was jointly written by BMF and EDA members to ensure that newcomers are equipped with relevant workplace skills. With this additional resource in their toolbox, Carmen and her team are aiming high.  

Our aim this year for BMF members is to start 110 Apprentices to mark the Trade Association's 110th Anniversary. We are thrilled to already be working with a number of members on a range of Apprenticeships as diverse as Accounting, Driving, IT and Warehouse Operative. The coming weeks will also see the first learners begin the new Trade Supplier standard.

For further information on the services offered by BMF Apprenticeships Plus, please contact me at carmen@bmfapprenticeshipsplus.co.uk or 0333 305 7656.
Apprenticeships rewritten. Carmen Daley of BMF Apprenticships Plus talks about how the BMF is making giant strides to transform apprenticeships in the merchant industry.

Bespoke solutions for every training gap  

by James Spillane, BMF Training and Development Manager
5 March 2018


James SpillaneMany merchants are currently setting their budgets for the new financial year, and should have a separate line item for training within this.  While medium and large organisations automatically invest 2-5% of salary costs into their training budgets, smaller organisations may well begin the process by assessing the training needs of their business during the coming year.  

Identifying and focusing on the real issues and actual needs of the business and its employees will help them to allocate an appropriate training budget. Working with the BMF will ensure that this budget is put to good use, developing the right skills to improve productivity and performance.  

The BMF not only offers over 70 different industry-specific courses, our Regional Managers will be happy to help you undertake a Training Needs Analysis specific to your business.  They can also work with you to create your own bespoke programmes from the wide range of courses available.  

Depending on your particular needs, this “pick and mix” bespoke service can be used to create develop programmes ranging from basic induction, through graduate development to branch manager development. 

For example, a branch manager development programme may include elements such as:
  • Financial Principles of Merchanting – incorporating Finance for Non-Finance Managers, Margin Development and Managing and Controlling Stock courses
  • Personal Effectiveness – combining Excelling in Customer Service, Effective Time Management, Excellence in Business Writing and Presentation Skills
  • Leadership – bringing together Performance Management and Staff Engagement and Retention courses
  • As well as other key areas, for example Transport for Non-Transport Managers.  

These bespoke programmes will usually be combinations of the BMF’s one, two, three of four day courses. In addition, they give merchants the opportunity to represent the culture of their company within the training, and give priority to agreed topics. Courses can either be run at the merchant’s own premises or at a venue of their choice.  

For those who want a more thorough grounding in management skills and advanced leadership development training to equip them for further progression in their merchanting career, there is also the BMF Diploma in Merchanting, a two-year part-time course combining self-study modules and regular group workshops.

Not all BMF courses are aimed at those on the management track.  Many are highly practical, such as Measuring Building Quantities, Driver CPC Training, Kitchen and Bathroom Design, and Search Engine Optimisation. 

The complete range of BMF training courses can be found here.  For simplicity the different categories of training are divided into eight sections: Management Development, Leadership, Sales, Induction & Operations, Apprenticeships, Product Knowledge, Transport and Specialist. 

The Prospectus also includes a Training Roadmap, to show how various courses lead on from another, and how employees may use them to develop individual skills, as well as to help them progress up their career ladder. Using this in combination with a free Training Needs Analysis from their BMF Regional Manager will help merchants accurately determine their company’s current training needs, and identify the best means of delivery in the most cost efficient way.  

To find out more about any aspect of BMF training, please contact me at James.Spillane@bmf.org.uk or on 02456 854980. Or contact your BMF Regional Manager direct to book a Training Needs Analysis.  

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.


This article first appeared in the February 2018 edition of Professional Builders' Merchant (PBM)
James Spillane, BMF Training and Development Manager talks about bespoke solutions for every training gap, at a time when many merchants are setting their budgets for the new financial year.

Counting the cost  

by John Newcomb, BMF CEO
27 February 2018



John NewcombWhat a start to the year!  I’m writing this in the week that Carillion went into liquidation.  By the time you read this, the impact on the building materials supply chain – as well as on thousands of Carillion employees and hundreds of sub-contractors – will no doubt be clearer.  

Within days of the collapse we were asked to gather information from members to help inform the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) on the level of exposure to Carillion and potential issues that may arise across the supply chain.  

Our initial survey indicated that few merchants are directly affected, but some are likely to be indirectly exposed through customers who are, or were, Carillion sub-contractors.  It is well-known that Carillion operated on 120 day payment terms and most of their sub-contractors are owed money for work carried out prior to the liquidation.  It may, therefore, take time to discover the full effect on our sector, and the greatest impact may well be felt in the longer term and not in the first days, or weeks, following Carillion’s collapse.  

Leading on from this, we are calling on the Government to take immediate steps to promote and enforce the Construction Supply Chain Payment Charter (CSCPC), which is designed to ensure that payments are made to the supply chain within 30 days.   

We have also made it clear that there are great opportunities available for Carillion apprentices, and other staff, to move into the building materials industry. Through our own Apprenticeships Training Agency and our dedicated recruitment portal we can offer recruitment options to former Carillion employees who would like to find out more about furthering their career in the materials supply sector.  

Political profile  

In recent years, the BMF has placed a priority on raising our profile in parliamentary circles, developing policy papers to influence the parties, their strategists & spokesmen, and building relationships with parliamentarians and their advisors.  Our overriding aim is to develop their understanding of the role, value and importance of the building materials’ supply chain within the wider construction industry.  

It is highly appropriate that the first event we are holding to celebrate our landmark anniversary year is a Parliamentary Reception at the House of Commons. This takes place on 24 April and will bring together an invited audience of BMF members, MPs and Peers.  The event celebrates the BMF’s 110th anniversary as a trade association and its 40th anniversary as a Federation by looking to the future and highlighting the talents and opportunity of the next generation of merchants, and the vibrancy and resilience of the industry.  Speakers at the event will include a representative of the BMF Young Merchants’ Group and the Minister for Apprenticeships and Skills.  

The importance the BMF places on building relationships throughout parliament is also evidenced by our regular programme of MP visits to merchants around the country. The most recent was a visit by Rupa Huq MP for Ealing Central & Acton, to Lords Builders Merchants in Park Royal, Ealing, in the lead up to local elections in all London Boroughs in May. With affordable housing a key concern for many Londoners, Dr Huq heard how the building materials supply chain is responding to today’s housing challenges.  


A year of anniversaries  

Finally, the BMF is not alone in marking significant milestones.  Several of our members also have important anniversaries to celebrate.  Our congratulations to them all, but prizes for longevity must surely go to Elliotts for their 175th anniversary last year, and Bradfords, who served their first customer in 1770 and are rapidly approaching 250 years supporting local trades.  That surely takes some beating! 



This article appeared in the February edition of Builders' Merchants News (BMN)

BMF CEO John Newcomb talks about Carillion, the importance of raising political profile and forthcoming BMF members' anniversaries.

Maximising your online performance through better user engagement

By David Watling, Head of Sales at Pauley Creative
14 February 2018    

David WatlingAs BMF members, we recently attended the BMF Supplier and Service Members Forum at Coventry University and were asked to deliver a presentation around construction marketing tactics to enhance online presence. We are proud to work with the BMF as a membership organisation, and by doing this presentation, we wanted to reassert the importance of truly understanding your audience to drive engagement through using the best tools and valuable, relatable content.  

You only need to look at the below stats to understand the amount of companies who still struggle to create a formal customer-led strategy, despite how crucial it is to reputation, profitability and overall success: “More than half of companies admit to not having a formal customer engagement program in place, and 60% didn’t know how many customers they’d lost over the past year.” — Convero 

“Customers who are fully engaged represent a 23% share of profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared to the average customer.” — Gallup  

At the Forum we covered the following areas: 

  • Understanding your audience –re-evaluate your construction business as it currently stands: we’ll prompt you with the right questions and provide you with the best tools to kickstart your internal marketing audit
  • Build or rebuild? –from the above research, what tools, platforms and general marketing tactics would be most useful to your customers? Can your website currently accommodate the changes required?
  • Putting the right tools in your kitbag – which online tools will help you to stand apart from your competition? Take a look at some core examples we use that could help to drive engagement and attract your customers
  • Tips on reporting and insights – we’ll take you through a step-by-step guide on some key tips to effectively report back on key customer findings using your Analytics account.    

You can have your say in our annual construction marketing survey. Everyone who completes the survey will be automatically entered into a random draw to win an Apple Ipad! In addition to the Apple Ipad, by completing the survey you’ll receive exclusive results and insights retrieved from the study, highlighting key challenges within construction marketing today and valuable opportunities for 2018.  Our study is helping us to understand exactly how the best-performing firms manage their construction marketing by implementing goals and specific tactics to grow faster and generate quality leads.  Take the survey now here
David Watling of Pauley Creative talks about how to maximise your online performance through better user engagement.

Carillion and the role of credit insurance for BMF members

Richard Ellithorne
by Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director
9 February 2018


Within the credit insurance industry Carillion has been a hot topic for some time. Following the three profit warnings issued in less than 6 months, it is no surprise that the credit insurers were treading carefully. With a £900m debt pile and £600m pension deficit you can see why the risk underwriters were worried. The warnings were clear to policyholders; keep a close eye on outstanding balances, keep within credit limits and be cautious.  

At the time, many were in the throes of projects and therefore trade continued as usual, as you would if you have traded with the second-largest construction company for many years without any issues.  There was also the general assumption early on that ‘the government will never let if fail, there is too much at stake. If Carillion go bust we are all in a lot of trouble’ – and what a lot of trouble it is. The ramifications are wide reaching and still unknown for the 43,000 employees and thousands of businesses who dealt with the giant. The domino effect is the wider issue of the failure and how this is going to reach businesses who, for some, never knew they were in somehow connected to the chain back to Carillion.  

Those who had credit insurance were either forewarned of this over a period of time, credit limits reduced then cancelled, or for those insured with Atradius were warned but kept cover running right until the Friday before the announcement. For these businesses they will at least see the claims payments come through from the credit limits held or in respect of binding contract cover. The latter being where cover has been withdrawn but cover remains in place to complete any binding works. Cover for retentions and advice on Retention of Title is all provided by the insurers who straight away were issuing advice to policy holders on how best to deal with any claims and mitigate the loss for both parties.  

The claim payments in many cases far outweigh the premiums paid and for many SME businesses the insurance at this point could be a lifeline. Thank goodness they had cover. Yes, for those who have had a disproportionate claim payment to the premium paid, will likely see an increase in premium next year but that won’t be forever. A good few years of claims free and a good broker to shop around will enable the premiums to remain at acceptable levels. The construction industry has been classed high risk for many years and the history of high profile insolvencies show this to be justified. In my opinion credit insurance for every company in this volatile sector is imperative. Hindsight is a wonderful thing, but, as the saying goes, better to be safe than sorry.



For more information about BMF Credit Insurance Plus please click here


Richard Ellithorne, BMF Membership Services Director talks about the recent Carillion collapse and credit insurance issues.

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