Home of celebrated bands from The Beatles to The Farm, the city of Liverpool played host to the recent NBG Conference.
Centered on a message of delivering greater strength through dynamic, professional partnerships, PBM reports back from what is arguably the UK’s music capital.
Bringing together over 600 delegates under the theme of ‘Building Strong Brands’, the 2018 NBG Conference was the buying group’s largest event to date and also provided the platform to celebrate its 15th anniversary.
A busy two-day programme included a packed ‘Supplier Summit’ which featured speeches from keynote speakers, the new product showcase and a live ‘panel debate’, in addition to the business of the NBG AGM. Day two centred on the Supplier Exhibition with — by our count — 165 manufacturers and service providers in attendance to showcase their latest ranges and discuss key issues with NBG partners.
Proceedings carried on late into the evening, with a Gala Dinner and the NBG’s Supplier Awards taking place in the city’s iconic Cunard Building on the banks of the Mersey — the fitting home of the British Music Experience.
The full list of winners was revealed in our December issue and can be seen on our website, however Nick Oates, NBG Managing Director, commented: “The Supplier Awards were the perfect way to round off this year’s conference. It’s great to see so many fantastic businesses being recognised and the partners votes are a testament to the strong relationships that continue to be built with our suppliers.”
‘Networking’ of course forms and essential element of any business conference, and this is perhaps especially important for any newcomers to the fold. NBG has welcomed a number of new merchant partners and suppliers over the last year, with many in attendance in Liverpool including Skipton-based Merritt & Fryers and Builders’ Merchants Company Ltd, which has branches in Scunthorpe, Rotherham and Hull.
In a statement posted on its website following the event, BMC said: “The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet with the suppliers of NBG and discuss in detail the opportunities and relationships that may develop over the coming years. It was also a great chance to meet some of the other NBG partners who we may not have yet had the opportunity to speak with.
“Overall it was a fantastic event to be a part of and reinforces the fact that NBG has brilliant values which directly match our own and we are very excited to see how this relationship develops moving forward.”
Duncan Thompson, BMC’s MD, said to PBM at the event that being a partner “gives you credibility” and provides the opportunity to “take our company to the next level, and gives us the confidence to grow”.
It was a sentiment echoed by Merritt & Fryers’ Director Rachel Fryer, who said: “Joining NBG was about developing our people and our business. It can be a struggle as an independent, but NBG opens doors and gives you a voice. The people you are talking to (at suppliers) are the real decision makers — it is a platform for growth.”
She added: “People can be resistant to change, but those in the business really bought into the concept. I thought it would take at least six months to ‘feel comfortable’ but, just three months since joining, we can already feel the benefits.”
Nick Oates picked up on the points, saying that new partners tend to be those firms that are “itching to move forward” and that was certainly evident in PBM’s discussions throughout the event, tying in neatly with the overarching Conference theme of “Building Strong Brands”.
Whilst these fiercely independent businesses are ceding a degree of control when signing up to a buying group — most obviously, when committing to take on new suppliers and maintain compliance to those deals — there remains an emphasis on the fact that they are still trading independently. By joining such a group, the argument follows that a merchant’s existing brand identity can only be enhanced by gaining access to the tools and support needed to elevate their businesses at the local level.
For more information, visit www.nationalbuyinggroup.com.
Merchants of Change
Responding to the findings of recently-conducted research, the NBG has also launched a new initiative to support its merchant partners.
Building a strong local brand identity and ensuring the availability and supply of products are central to success for independent merchants, according to NBG’s new survey. Effective e-commerce and social media marketing are also identified by business owners as key factors for 2019.
Publication of the research coincides with the launch of NBG’s Merchants of Change community, which is designed to “help partners pool knowledge, develop their skill-sets and face the future with confidence” by sharing advice, exchanging best practice and learning about the latest industry challenges.
The research acts as a barometer for the sector and found the top priority for merchants is having a strong local brand identity with 94% of partners agreeing or strongly agreeing this is vital to retaining and attracting customers. The second major concern is the availability of products and a consistent supply — 85% say this would remain a long-term challenge.
The other concerns in the ‘top six’ were revealed to be the importance of social media as a marketing tool (83%); having a strong e-commerce offering (81%) coupled with e-trading solutions to boost efficiency in ordering, invoicing and stock management (79%); and staff recruitment and retention — in particular attracting high quality, younger employees (74%).
Nick Oates, NBG Managing Director, said: “We wanted to demonstrate that we’re a progressive buying group by encouraging our partners to think about the bigger picture and give them a chance to build a common message around making their brands stronger, embracing change and looking to the future of their business.
“Merchants adopt change at differing paces and sometimes struggle to overcome traditional views and practices. We wanted to do something to support change in the industry while making our partners feel confident in sharing their opinions and giving them a space to help shape the next generation of merchants. We’re very much looking forward to seeing how Merchants of Change will develop in the coming months.”