Here at PBM headquarters, we seem to have been inundated over the past year with feel-good stories about merchants doing their bit for the local community, raising large sums of money for charity and boosting staff morale through all manner of fund-raising activities.
Such positive stories serve as a fantastic advert for the industry, and it’s been refreshing to see so many companies getting involved.
PBM’s Alex Juggins considers a selection of the sector’s recent good deeds.
Using the widespread popularity of road cycling to great effect, Jewson’s ‘Tour de Jewson’ has continued to go from strength to strength in recent years and has become a firm fixture in the company’s fundraising calendar.
“Now in its sixth year, the Tour de Jewson is a major cycling event and our largest annual charity fundraiser. It covers a staggering 2,500 miles and attracts around two hundred riders every year — consisting of Jewson customers, key suppliers and employees”, says Paul Edwards, Director of Sales at the national merchant.
The aim of the event is to raise significant funds for the merchant’s ‘together’ charity partner, which for 2015 remains Macmillan Cancer Support. Last year, more than £150,000 was raised with the Tour contributing over £28,000, and these funds go directly towards providing vital support for people living with cancer.
Selco has also forged a long term partnership with Macmillan, having raised £174,000 for the charity over the last three years and recently committed to further the partnership. The merchant’s Chief Executive Chris Cunliffe said: “We are delighted to be supporting Macmillan Cancer Support for a further two years and extend our successful partnership with the charity.”
Amongst the many events which staff, customers and suppliers have already taken part in to raise money are golf days, cycle rides, charity runs — including HR Manager Simon Ball running the London Marathon — auctions at the annual Selco supplier conference and participation in the Macmillan Coffee Morning, where baking skills are put to the test.
Continuing the theme of endurance-based challenges, you may recall PBM’s November 2014 front cover, which featured staff members from LBS Builders Merchants, who took on the Men’s Health Survival of the Fittest. Over a third of the company’s workforce completed the urban assault course in Cardiff, with sponsorship money of over £12,000 being donated to five good causes — British Heart Foundation, Cancer Research UK, Maggie’s Centres, Bobath Children’s Therapy Centre Wales and Macmillan.
Mark Davies, Managing Director, believes that the event had a profound effect on the business, noting that: “Training together in groups for the last six months has been great for team building and general fitness levels. I truly believe our business is stronger for the whole experience.”
But it’s not just through staff participation in bike rides, marathons and military-style assault courses that merchants have left their mark on the sporting community. Indeed, more and more merchants are lending a helping hand by sponsoring their local sports clubs. For instance, last year, Chandlers Building Supplies supported the communities local to its branches by sponsoring football, rugby and cricket teams and by donating materials and products so that clubs were able to complete renovations.
Richard Skinner, Commercial Director at Chandlers, commented: “Where we can help, we are fully committed to supporting groups, charities and projects, and we see it as a key part of our community involvement. There are some fantastic groups in and around the areas local to our branches and, where it is practical for us to do so, we are always happy to offer some help.”
The back end of 2014 also saw a number of merchants engaging with the local community in a variety of ways. Howarth Timber and Building Supplies, for example, continued to make a splash, after sponsoring a fishing event for people with disabilities in South Yorkshire. The skills event, organised by the Masonic Fishing Charity (MTSFC), was held at the Delves fishery in Thorne and saw a group of volunteers team up with 15 people from the local area to take part in an angling competition.
John Brandon, Howarth’s Branch Manager in Thorne, said: “At Howarth, we’re proud to have supported this unique event by providing refreshments and by organising for the ponds to be used without charge, courtesy of Peter Richardson, the Delves ponds bailiff. We have supported many local organisations and were delighted to support this fantastic event too. It gave me immense pleasure to represent Howarth for this most worthy cause.”
Also putting in some hard graft for the benefit of the local community last year was Buttle’s builders merchants. Trainee managers at contractor Willmott Dixon teamed up with the independent’s branch in Enfield to modernise a local community centre. St Luke’s community centre provides a workshop for young people, some of whom are disabled. The management trainees were set the challenge of reinstating the gardens using donated materials and their own labour.
Buttle’s Branch Manager, Gareth Bolam, said “we enjoyed helping the Willmott Dixon Foundation to complete this project. It was a pleasure to work with their trainees, who gained valuable project management experience with a bit of help from Buttle’s.”
The case-studies above are a mere handful of the kind of projects that merchants are engaging in up and down the country. Developing a strong reputation for community involvement is an increasingly important consideration for any business, not least for builders’ merchants, who can reap the benefits of fostering good relationships with local people and organisations.