New decade, new Government, new opportunities

by John Newcomb, CEO, BMF
22 January 2020

John NewcombMany of us will be glad to see the back of 2019, which will largely be remembered for political strife and economic stagnation while Brexit deadlines came and passed. Whatever your views on the subject, we are now assured of a resolution in 2020. But the new Government must also look beyond Brexit to domestic policy. 

The BMF awaits the February cabinet reshuffle to see who will take responsibility for Housing and Climate Change. We will urge them to focus on two major issues. Narrowing the gap between housing demand and supply, and the decarbonisation of heating and electrification of homes with sustainable means.   

On new housing, concerted action is required to simplify and speed up planning approvals for uncontroversial applications thus increasing housing completions. We will also seek early clarification on the future of the Help to Buy scheme. 

BMF members have a key role to play with regard to decarbonising homes, as they make and deliver the majority of products used to provide low carbon solutions. We strongly support the “Fabric First” concept, with a coherent, long-term framework that combines better insulation, efficient boilers and low-carbon, microgeneration on the road to net zero carbon emissions. The Government must create an environment that enables our industry to invest confidently in the people, materials and new products required both for new build and existing homes. 

Reducing VAT from 20% to 5% on home improvement works is central to this aim and the BMF, along with others in construction, has already written to Mr Johnson to outline the economic, environmental and social benefits from improving existing properties with a lower VAT rate. 

Building Excellence

The BMF’s priority for 2020 continues to be helping our members to build excellence within their business. Two initiatives starting this month are central to this aim. The first links to customer service, the second to digitalisation – and in an increasingly on-line world, both are closely aligned.  

Trustpilot, the leading global review platform, joined the BMF as a service member this month and we have negotiated a 10% discount for BMF members signing up for their service. Trustpilot give companies the tools to track and analyse customer satisfaction, build greater trust and to showcase and grow their business.  In particular, merchants can gain insight about their customers’ experience and identify trends and patterns in feedback.  Should they identify a particular issue, the BMF is always able to provide assistance with training solutions. 

More and more trade customers have grown up with the internet and there is a growing demand to order building products and manage trade accounts online, making the digitalisation of business a necessity rather than an option. 

A recent straw-poll of our merchant members found a growing number already doing business online and 65% planning to launch or increase sales from online platforms during the next two years. One of the difficulties they currently encounter is obtaining product data from their suppliers in an easily usable format, which is why the BMF will work with the building materials and HVAC communities to implement the ETIM open source data model.  

ETIM not only ensures that all users of the product data employ the same terms to describe the same attributes and values, it streamlines the transfer of information, removes inefficiency in the supply chain and facilitates the transition to online trading.   

I am delighted that NMBS and NBG have already announced their support for the model, which will help independent merchants address the challenge of digitisation, bringing new opportunities as we move into a new decade.  

This article first appeared in the January 2020 edition of Builders' Merchants News (BMN)

To find out more about ETIM click here
To find out more about Trustpilot click here