PBM speaks with Paul Duff, NBG’s Category Buyer for both the Civils & Landscaping and Roofing & Insulation Category Management Teams.
How did you get into the industry and to your current position?
At 16, I had a passion for motorcycles so rather than pursue A levels, I took an apprenticeship in mechanical engineering and learnt how motorcycles work and how to fix them. From there, I joined RS Components in a technical compliance role, which led me on to a buying role at Screwfix. My career has since taken me to Travis Perkins, Jewson and Saint-Gobain.
After a brief stint at FP McCann, I joined NBG where I really appreciate the agility of independent builders’ merchants to change direction and make decisions, giving them an advantage over the nationals. It’s refreshing!
How do you feel the industry has changed in recent years?
My role is to improve our deals, support our Partners and look for new opportunities for Suppliers and Partners to work together. Looking at upcoming trends, we can see that increased online trading means that pricing is now very visible and our Partners are at different stages in their online offer.
We’re currently working with Suppliers like Velux to help Partners improve their skills and knowledge, and provide some tools to help them navigate this complicated online trading world.
Furthermore, in 2019 while the national merchants plateaued, our Partners enjoyed significant growth, and many new Partners have joined NBG. I think this is because businesses need to be passionate about service and our Partners are entirely focussed on their customers and what they need.
For example, in landscaping we have seen a huge increase in the demand for porcelain, and a decline in sandstone, so it’s important that we spot trends to help Partners meet these changing demands.
We also need to work together to build the value of premium products and help prevent them becoming a commodity.
What has influenced you most in your career?
I was once told that if it’s on the page, it should be in stock. This has influenced me throughout my career and is the reason I focus on availability and delivery. Customers depend on merchants in order to do their jobs and meet the expectations of their clients, so in my experience, successful businesses use a ‘customer first’ model.
What has been your biggest challenge so far?
Every role has its challenges, but at NBG my current challenge is to expand our civils offer further and to improve our deals. This is a great opportunity for us to support our Partners more and add greater value, by using some of the knowledge and learnings that we have gained from our roofing specialists.
By working collaboratively, and bringing our civils specialists together, I believe we will soon be making a big difference.
Where do you see yourself in five years’ time?
From a career point of view, I hope I’m still able to help NBG Partners develop their businesses and support Suppliers as they break into a national market. As a lifelong Leicester City fan and season ticket holder, I’m hoping that I’ll be in the King Power stadium watching them lift the Premiership trophy — again!
For more information on NBG, visit https://www.nationalbuyinggroup.com/