Parker Building Supplies
Transforming stores for Parkers
Today’s customers expect the same level of professional service and display as they would get in any High Street multiple.
Growth in Building Supplies market
Builders’ merchants have undergone something of a transformation. The days of turning up at a scruffy yard with little in the way of display space and a tiny back office have gone. Today’s customers expect the same level of professional service and display as they would get in any High Street multiple.
With the market now experiencing real growth, powered by a big hike in aggregates and a revival in house-building, it is the companies that can stand out that have the most to gain. Some experts predict that the sector will soon be back up to the pre-2007 recession levels, so there’s a lot of money at stake.
Parkers have invested heavily in their branches
Parker Building Supplies have been investing heavily in their branches for just this opportunity. Already one of the South East’s leading independent builders’ merchants, they have come a long way since Tom Parker opened his first branch in an old railway goods yard in Uckfield in 1984. Today the company has 26 locations, with the latest just opening at Newhaven. The company now employs 260 people and has a fleet of 32 HGV vehicles.
Operations Manager Phil White explained: ‘In the 1980s and 90s customers often turned up, not knowing where to park, to trudge through shambolic yards to reach dirty, poorly laid out and badly stocked showrooms where they would be offered a dusty, photocopied special offer sheet. Then, to add insult to injury, they would be served by someone who couldn’t care less. Well, those days have gone.’
Offering facilities "miles above fit for purpose"
The industry is in the throes of a massive cultural change – and the changes are more than cosmetic. Phil adds: ‘To provide the very best service is a three-way process involving our customers, our staff and, of course, the company, and improvements to showrooms are only part of the equation. Critically customers will also see the benefits of an intense, ongoing staff training programme, involving all levels of staff. We want to be able to offer facilities that are “miles above fit for purpose” and ‘with a workforce to match.’
Shopfitting experts Salepoint began working with the company in the 1980s when they sorted out new shopfittings for Tom Parker’s Uckfield site and they have been involved ever since.
Cost of transformation repaid quickly by increase in turnover
In 2013 Parker opened a branch at Angmering, East Preston, a pretty little Saxon village near Worthing in West Sussex. Initially, to start trading speedily, the sales area was a modest portable building. The real investment followed, with a mezzanine extension, a warehouse completely equipped with state of the art racking and the formation of a brand new shop and office area to replace the portable building, the content of which set the standard for other outlets across the company.
Salepoint’s James Stewart was involved in the critically-important planning stage. Designs featured Parker’s eye-catching corporate colours of turquoise and dark red, and the upmarket shop fit included a much-enlarged display area as well as more storage space. The cost has already been repaid with large increases in turnover.
Next for Salepoint was a former Builder Center depot at Bexhill-on-Sea, which was taken over as part of Parker’s branch expansion early in 2013. In fact, this was not the first time Salepoint had worked on this site as it was originally the H.O. of M P Harris & Company, for which the company had done business for many years. The site had long been in need of redevelopment according to Parkers. Extra space was created by part demolishing a building to extend the heavyside, timber and paving facilities. The renovation also created a larger sales area that was completely refitted by Salepoint.
Life began in a railway yard but now leading the way
Newhaven is the latest branch to open – and it fulfils Parker’s training remit. Designed and fully fitted by Salepoint, the branch features a new shop, a newly-laid asphalt yard, and new racking – all branded in the company’s colours. It will also be where new trainees begin their careers and where they will learn ‘the Parker way’. The company is passionate about training and firmly believes in the ethos of transforming business performance by having qualified people in the right place. The trainees receive BMF Apprenticeship training and are enrolled as student members of the Institute of Builders Merchants.
Not bad for a business that began life in a railway yard. But then Parker views itself as much more than a builders’ merchant. From the earliest days their philosophy has always been to provide quality of service, with knowledgeable staff, well manufactured stock and an efficient delivery service.
They also solve customers’ problems, demonstrate cost-saving, and partner charities, currently the Teenage Cancer Trust (for which they have so far raised more than £40,000). Parker have certainly upped their game to be in the driving seat as the industry expands – and Salepoint are proud to be an important part of the story.