Our downloadable database includes details of named buyers/purchasers at over 260 of the UK's builders merchant chains, which, combined, account for over 10,000 individual branches across the country. This was last updated in April 2020.
The latest edition of the Construct UK merchant buyers database reflects changes on the 2018 edition and numerous entries have been amended or removed to reflect mergers, address/contact changes, and cessations, etc. New entries have been introduced where appropriate. The database covers only the industry's chains (defined as those with more than one branch), so local, single-branch firms, have been omitted.
In addition to the contact name, the information for each entry also includes the number of branches for each firm, the primary activity (i.e. heavyside, lightside, timber, etc.), address, telephone number, website and email address (over 60% are name-specific to buyer, the remainder being generic - info@, etc.). We have also included the social media links (where possible) for Linkedin, Twitter and Facebook.
In 2019, the 'Builders Merchant Building Index' (BMBI) published data for the previous year, and total merchant sales for 2018 finished +3.8% ahead of 2017 (down from the previous year-on-year rise of +6.3%). In terms of the individual product categories, four did better than average, led by Plumbing Heating & Electrical (+7.1%), with Timber & Joinery Products (+7.0%) just behind. Six categories grew more slowly, once again including the largest category, Heavy Building Materials, which recorded +2.5% increase.
The BMBI provides sales comparisons for the key individual product groups, such as ‘Heavy Building Materials’, ‘Ironmongery’, ‘Plumbing, Heating and Electrical’, Kitchens and Bathrooms’, etc.
Industry research indicates that consolidation in the sector has resulted in 5 major groups accounting for an estimated 75% of the market. Overall, the merchants offer an extensive range, dominated by traditional building products. Plumbing and drainage account for around 17%, and heating and ventilation for around 15%, with other sectors commanding smaller shares. Buying groups (see below) continue to play an important role in the market, not least because it remains highly price-sensitive affected by product availability, raw material and fuel costs.
The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) is the main trade association representing builders’ merchants and their suppliers in the UK and Ireland. As of August 2019 membership comprised 695 merchant and supplier companies who together had combined sales of £31.4 bn and employed over 128,000 people in the building materials industry.
In April 2019 the BMF launched the first of its annual Merchant Industry Forecasts to help those involved in building materials supply to plan for the future. It is available free of charge to members and can be purchased by non-members.
Marketing to Clients
Needless to say, one of the greatest influences on the merchant sector’s product selection and purchasing choices is client demand, so generating interest amongst the trades that use merchants is highly important and it is worth a brief digression. In 2019, the construction marketing agency CIB surveyed over 800 building tradespeople about a range of topics.
These included where they buy materials, how they find out about new products, i.e. usage of trade magazines and websites, etc. National merchants and wholesalers were found to be the most common place for builders, plumbers, electricians and plasterers to buy materials: the full commentary on the results provides details and is a worthwhile read for those marketing to the sector. Interestingly, when it came to finding out about new products, the survey found that “…there is not one source that is significantly more important than others. Tradespeople get new product information from a mix of different sources with trade press, merchants’ staff, web research, social media and recommendations from friends or colleagues all scoring similarly.”
Whilst across all the trades surveyed some 44% said that they find out about new products from merchant staff, it was clear that trade publications also play a significant role.
Journals and Product Directories
Key journals covering the sector include Builders’ Merchants News, Professional Builders Merchant, and Builders Merchants Journal, all of which include owners, directors and branch managers in their readerships. These are included in our downloadable index of 330+ UK construction industry journals, which, apart from identifying other relevant titles, includes media data such as circulation, readership profiles, sales contacts, etc. In order to support the PR activities of our clients, the index also includes named editorial contacts at each of the journals, which includes editorial-specific email addresses for each. Builders’ Merchants News also publishes a weekly e-newsletter, which includes advertising options and an annual wall planner, also with advertising options, that is circulated to individual branches across the UK.
Our construction product directories feature provides a comprehensive index, but it is worth highlighting the National Merchant Buying Society’s own product directory, which is used by merchant buyers and branch managers.
Exhibitions and Awards
There are over 280 construction exhibitions detailed in our UK Construction Exhibition Calendar, but it is worth highlighting the Jewson Live event which is held each December at the NEC, the National Painting and Decorating Show and also the National Merchant Buying Society's annual exhibition, which is a dedicated and key event in the independent merchant buyer's calendar. There are also the FFX Tool Show and the Professional Builder Tool Show.
Our comprehensive list of industry awards ceremonies offering sponsorship opportunities can be viewed separately here.
Independent builders’ merchants are often members of buying groups or consortiums, which offer them commercial advantages. The following are such groups:
FORTIS Merchants Ltd
Email: via website
Contact name: Will O'Meara, Director of Operations
No. Member Firms: 41 member companies across the UK (approx 380 branches)
The IPG – (Independent Plumbing Group)
Tel: +44 (0) 1903 771699
Email: Via website
Contact name: Tony Dark, Director of Trade
National Buying Group
Email: Via website
Contact name: Nick Oates, Managing Director
Plumbing & Heating Group
Tel: +44 (0) 1543 440000
Email: Via website
Contact name: Not disclosed