Buying locally is being promoted across many sectors as a way to help boost the UK economy and Independent buying group IPG is putting its weight behind its members by emphasising the benefits of buying from independents, rather than larger national corporations.
The IPG was formed in 2013 with one mission; to bring independent plumbing, heating and bathroom specialists together, and in turn, to give their customers the opportunity to buy great brands locally at the best prices. The IPG believe that the independent merchant should have a voice and a better chance to compete in the market given all the challenges facing them today. They have partnered with some of their members to share their vision and to tell us the various benefits of buying from an independent.
Buying from an independent merchant is a significant contributing factor in supporting local employment, our entrepreneurs, boosting UK innovation, as well as maintaining traditions and increasing environmental benefits. And with a recent survey revealing 73% of Brits associate UK manufacturers with higher quality*, it’s no wonder that the trend to buy from an independent, many of whom support British manufacturing, is growing in popularity in the UK.
Benefits of buying from an independent include expert knowledge, that can be specifically tailored to particular projects and needs and friendly service. In a sector where understanding exactly what is needed for any individual project can mean the success or failure of said project and directly impact on the likelihood of repeat custom and the merchant’s reputation, both of these are crucial parts of a business which threaten to be lost in companies focussed more on numbers than their customers.
Justin Protheroe of WMI Simpsons, commented “It’s not just about the price, it’s about the service. Even to the point where people can ring you up outside of hours (if they’re in trouble) and you can go to the shop and give them what they need – we do that and that’s a huge advantage to many of our customers. We are very reactive, for example, a customer rung us this morning, his van is in the garage but he was meant to come and pick up a bathroom suite today, so I told him that we would deliver it to him this afternoon – he’s given me a problem so I have given him a solution.”
Supporting the local economy is another plus in the independents’ corner. Often a common myth is that buying from an independent merchant will be more expensive, however in most cases, this just isn’t the case – in-fact it’s sometimes the total opposite. Independent merchants also recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, creating jobs and investing in their staff, enriching the whole community.
Steve Bates of Aquadart, an IPG supplier said “Customers buying from an independent merchant are extremely important to our business, as again independent stores support the local economy by creating jobs and providing a more personal and professional service. We actively encourage this through our external sales team who endeavour to form a good working relationship with merchants, offering The IPG merchants’ excellent terms, service and promotions, to help grow the business together.”
Location is also key. Independents allow people to invest their time and money into their own community. Local merchants who take pride in ensuring that all their customers are fully equipped and prepared for their next project, big or small, rely on the support of those in the local area.
Trevor Moore, Director of Splash Plumbing & Heating Ltd, commented “It’s more than just the ‘location’, this extends to the relationship with customers and localised knowledge of the area and an understanding of the plumbers’ needs. I stock certain products at my Reading branch, because I know my customers and I know there is a need for it in the area, whereas I recognise in my Egham branch there are different needs and I can tailor the stock accordingly.”
An independent merchant will go above and beyond to source the most efficient, cost-effective products – with a quick turnaround. They will stock products that are not based on a national sales plan, thus guaranteeing a broader range of products, ensuring that your best interests and individual needs are the priority, as Ross Pavey, Finance Director at Gasbits, commented “We can provide a much deeper level of knowledge and service, than larger chains. We often see people coming to us after visiting a larger chain, having not got the advice or product they needed. At the end of the day, if we don’t get it right, we haven’t done our job properly and that isn’t what we want. We always go the extra mile to help our customers get what they need with solid advice in the timeline required.”
The advantages of buying from an independent are clear, not only are they more competitive in terms of price, but for them it’s about more than just the price, it’s more than the service – it’s about the fact that independents are there to help their customers.
“I have bought from an independent, I run an independent and I have also sold into independents from a representative’s perspective. I think, well, I don’t think, I know, (because I have been on all sides of it) that independents can make decisions quickly. Have you heard the old terminology ‘the computer says no’? That doesn’t happen with us and I don’t think that happens with any independent merchant because you are talking to the guy who can make the decision. In my experience, they can make the call there and then, independents are very quick and fast-paced, and it is personal.” said Justin Protheroe of WMI Simpsons.
Nike Lovell, Head of Marketing at The IPG, concluded “We have a growing network of over 200 independent merchants, who pride themselves on being able to offer an in-depth, knowledgeable service. Some of our members have been in business for decades, meaning that this expert independent knowledge is carefully passed on from generation to generation and their reputation is outstanding! Often, the relationships created between our members and their customers go beyond purchases, in many cases, they become trusted advisors and friends.”
Find out more about The IPG (and find one of their 200+ merchant member stores) via their website, www.the-ipg.co.uk.