A very unlevel playing field

The battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Eton


How in the world are builders merchants supposed to compete in the market when there are deals out there that sell materials to the end user cheaper than merchants can buy them?

I’m talking, of course, about the deal that B&Q announced today: that they are to sell one million rolls of insulation for £1 each. Yes, that’s right. A quid. You can’t even buy a cup of coffee for a quid these days, now that the High Street has been well and truly Starbucked .

Loss leaders are, of course, perfectly usual marketing practice and B&Q have been loss leading on all sorts of products for years. Often advertising how much cheaper their product is than at the local builders merchant.

The need to make our homes more energy efficient is, it seems, now taken as gospel by everyone. So clearly, making products that do so available more cheaply to the householder, is A Good Thing.

But not at the expense of a sector already having to deal with the worst recession the construction industry has ever seen. If builders merchants can’t buy products as cheaply as B&Q can sell them then what’s the point in them selling those products at all? And this is the one sector from which we have been moreorless guaranteed good, solid growth.

I don’t care that it’s only until the million rolls runs out. Nor that it’s only available to retail customers because it’s part of the CERT scheme. Any householder heading for B&Q in order to take advantage of this isn’t going to go elsewhere once he’s in the store and finds the offer is no longer running. He’ll simply buy it at the new price and that’s another customer lost to a builders merchant.

I suggest to all builders merchants out there: get in your cars first thing on Friday morning and head down to the nearest B&Q and stock up while you can.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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