Updated: Feb 4, 2020
There are a number of options when it comes to buying building materials and products associated with the built environment. Builders merchants usually offer a reasonably wide choice of quality products at a discounted ‘trade’ price. They offer 30 day terms as well as cash accounts for trade customers who prefer to pay for goods up front. Builders merchants are not considered the cheapest retailer for building materials, however, they do typically provide valuable expertise and good product knowledge at the counter, plus there are sometimes offers to encourage loyalty and repeat custom.
In simple terms builders merchants are divided into nationals and independents. Nationals include brands such as Jewson, Travis Perkins, Selco and Buildbase, with branches covering the UK on a nationwide basis. Independent builders merchants on the other hand are usually family run localalised stores with a relatively low number of branches, examples include Lords and Blanchford.
For those who are more cost conscious there are retailers such as Screwfix and Toolstation. These offer a much wider range of products, available to purchase online or in-store with a click and collect service also an option. They use their own catalogues, each product displays an RRP price and that price is sometimes lower than a typical builders merchant. This is because products can vary in terms of quality. These retailers also buy in high volumes and can therefore sell very efficiently through their national distribution network of bricks and mortar stores as well as online.
For the DIYer there’s a number of high street brands such as B&Q, Homebase and some might even include Wickes. With huge advertising budgets these names are recognisable and as such their prices can be quite high too compared with other trade retailers. Again online and in-store purchasing is available, with stores usually located out of town.
For us, well it’s down to product availability, price and location. If we’re able to purchase a quality product nearby, quickly and at a reasonable price then that’s what we’ll do. However some products are only available from specialist merchant retailers. Sometimes we might have to arrange an on-site delivery for products that have been specified by an architect and pay a little more for that convenience.
It’s always worth shopping around, whether you’re buying building materials and products occasionally or every day.