Independent builders merchant buying group National Merchant Buying Society celebrated its 50th trading year with invited members and suppliers at the Guildhall in London on Friday (April 19).
The assembled guests were addressed by NMBS chairman Tim Allen, managing director Chris Hayward and guest speaker, Sir Roger Carr, chairman of Centrica plc, deputy chairman and senior independent director of the Court of the Bank of England and is president of the Confederation of British Industry.
Allen said that the event was not just about celebrating the past 50 years, but also about looking forward to a successful future with both members and supplier partners. Amid the “recognition that independents are still a significant force and vital for a for a competitive and buoyant building materials supply sector.
He said: “NMBS has never been in better shape; we finished 2012 with our turnover up by over 8% to £545m, a great result in what are still very difficult times. We also kept our overhead costs down and recorded our lowest ever total overhead costs of 0.19% of turnover, with actual costs 28% lower than they were five years ago.
“Our thanks must go to the management board, staff and management team at NMBS, but more importantly to our members and suppliers who trusted us with their business.”
Allen confirmed that NMBS intends to keep growing. “Again, I can tell you that we are well on target for achieving over £600M of turnover for 2013 and with the help of people in this room we know we can keep on showing positive growth and sharing the rewards of that success.”
Hayward reflected on the growth of the organisation from its birth when Tony Swain of the Devon Trading Company brought up the topic of group buying schemes at a meeting of the National Federation of Building and Plumbing Merchants – what was to become the BMF.
The first general meeting in July 1963 was chaired by John Stephens and by the official birthday on November 30 1963, the society had over 30 members.
The following year it employed John Tatton to negotiate on behalf of members with suppliers, who ran the society from his back bedroom until suitable premises could be found – above a butcher’s shop in Evington, Leicester.
In 1968, the society held its first trade exhibition, at the Pennine Hotel, Derby and charged suppliers the princely sum of £10 to exhibit.
“Since then,” Hayward said, “it has grown to be the biggest and best event in the UK and is held at the Telford International Centre.”
He then “named and shamed” a number of key industry names that have been party to the success of NMBS over the years: Chris Bence, Ray Bass, Peter Buttle, Andrew Tipper, David Dickens, Andrew Nicholls, Neil Hemmington, Mark Davies, Gary Hopkins and David Kilburn.
“In summary, NMBS is in very good shape and on target for a record turnover in our 50th year. We are essentially the same business today as we were when we first started, serving the needs of our members and looking to add extra value to their bottom lines.
Like all businesses that have prospered and grown in the last 50 years, we have had to evolve and adapt; today we work hand in hand with the major independent buying groups such as Cemco, CBA, NBG, H&B, PHG, Lima and IBC to ensure we get the best deals for our members and that our suppliers have an opportunity to grow their sales and maintain a vital route to market.”
Sir Roger Carr spoke of the difficulties faced by the industry over the past few years, but also of his hopes for the future, saying that he saw the glass as “half-full, rather than half-empty”.
“You are the bedrock of the economy. If it isn’t working in construction then the recovery will remain elusive for all of us,” he said.
“The CBI is right behind you. We will encourage government, make the case, value your successes and broadcast your achievements.”