Previewing the 2019 BMF Conference

Previewing the 2019 BMF Conference

This year’s All Industry Conference, hosted by the BMF, heads to the stunning city of Dubrovnik — a key filming location for the epic television show, Game of Thrones. PBM gives the lowdown on the merchant industry’s very own showpiece event.

Taking its theme as ‘Building Excellence’, this year’s BMF Conference will welcome delegates to the Adriatic coast with the promise of a packed business programme and a stellar line-up of speakers ready to tackle the key issues confronting the merchant sector and the wider UK economy in addition to providing insight and inspiration to the industry’s business leaders.

Broadcaster and TV personality Gethin Jones returns to host the event, warmly welcomed back following outstanding feedback from his stint as compere in Budapest in 2017. And whilst this was scheduled to be the first such industry gathering to follow the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the ongoing inertia that is Brexit will doubtless frame the event in a somewhat different manner to the original intent.

Accordingly, delegates will certainly be keen to hear the Westminster wisdom of keynote speaker Lord John Prescott. Representing the constituency of Hull East for 40 years in an influential parliamentary career, the former Labour MP — famous for his plain speaking — served as Deputy Prime Minister from 1997 to 2007 and follows in the footsteps of political heavyweights Michael Portillo, Alistair Campbell and the late Paddy Ashdown to address the BMF Conference.

The central platform of the business sessions is to provide an opportunity for delegates to get to the heart of the major trends and underlying patterns of the merchant sector itself. The Industry Forum, for instance, is one of the most popular sessions at the BMF’s biennial event, bringing together delegates from every corner of the industry to debate the key business issues of the day.

The scene is set with initial, individual presentations from an experienced quartet of industry leaders, before the debate is opened to the floor. This year, Tony France, Sales Director of Ibstock Brick will give a supplier’s view whilst David Young, Managing Director of Bradfords Building Supplies, and Neil Lawrence, Chief Operating Officer of Jewson, will offer a merchant standpoint from the independent and national sectors of the market, respectively.

Joining them for the discussion is Mark Vandecruys, Chairman of Fedrus International — an independent Belgian distributor that specialises in roofing and façade materials. Bringing a European dimension to the debate, Mark is the co-owner and Chairman of the firm and, over the last ten years, he has overseen its growth from a small entity to a multinational business using a ‘buy-and-build’ strategy. It now comprises five operational units with total revenues of €650m and over 1,550 employees.

The business programme continues with a series of four interactive industry workshops, each offering a thought-provoking platform for more in-depth group discussions. The format takes its foundation from the specialist BMF Industry Forums which run throughout the year and are growing in both number and popularity. There are now more than 15 such forums meeting on a regular basis, serving various sector and functional interest groups. In Dubrovnik, delegates will be able to attend two of the following:

Marketing Forum

Mark Mallinder, Marketing Director of EH Smith, will lead the workshop, setting the scene before a Q&A session that is certain to consider the impact of Brexit on business development and marketing strategies. The session is chaired by Lucia Di Stazio, MD of MRA Marketing.

Plumbing & Heating Forum

The longest standing of the BMF Forums and one of the most well-supported, speakers in Dubrovnik include Andrew Harrison, CEO of Travis Perkins’ Plumbing Division, Jonathan Collier, MD of Monument Tools, and session chair Mark Bradley, MD of Plumbase.

HR/Mental Health Forum

Award-winning mental health campaigners, Neil Laybourn and Jonny Benjamin MBE, will follow up their presentation on the main stage on Day One of the Conference by starting proceedings at this important workshop. They will be joined by Brian Dow, MD of Mental Health UK and Deputy Chief Executive of Rethink Mental Illness.

Young Merchants Forum

The BMF Young Merchant Group supports and encourages those progressing in their careers. Setting an inspirational tone for this session is Oli France, an adventurer and professional expedition leader who has led teams through some of the world’s most dangerous and least visited countries. This forum is jointly chaired by MKM’s Glenn Paddison, the current chair of BMF Young Merchant Group, and John Ryszkowski, Divisional MD of ACO.

Industry discussion and the all-important relationship building will be further fuelled with the Merchant/Supplier Exchange segment of rolling, short-form meetings. Further opportunities for more ‘informal’ networking will be facilitated by a wide-ranging social programme.

A diverse and engaging line-up of speakers completes the programme, with the discussions moving from an industry centre following an address from DIY SOS presenter, Nick Knowles to broader-based presentations on business and leadership from the likes of Edwin Morgan, Interim Director General for External Affairs at the Institute of Directors and leading sports psychologist Michael Caulfield Msc.

Legendary Paralympian Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE will share the story of her achievements both on the track and in the planning, execution and legacy of London 2012. Lastly,  Richard Walton, the former Commander at New Scotland Yard who led London’s Counter Terrorism Command both during the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee and the London Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012, will explore the event’s ‘Excellence’ angle from a different field, outlining the need to adapt to emerging threats and challenges in a changing world.

The BMF All-Industry Conference 2019 takes place at the Sun Gardens Dubrovnik from 13 to 16 June. For more information visit

BMF 2019 Conference Sponsors

Headline Sponsor: Crystal Clear Group

Key Sponsors: Alumasc Water Management Solutions, Bradstone, Keystone Group, Marsh Industries, Ibstock Brick, Rockwool, Encon Insulation, Polypipe, Kerridge Commercial Systems, The Build Show

More than 50 additional suppliers are supporting the event as Platinum, Gold or Silver sponsors and will be represented at the 2019 BMF Conference in Dubrovnik.

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