Don’t forget about us!

Good merchandise, even hidden, soon finds buyers.

After the initial euphoria and excitement which I’m afraid I always get when I see someone I know on the telly, it struck me that the BBC TV programme in which PTS md Alan Ball appeared promoting the Boiler Scrappage Scheme fell prey to the blindness that seems to hit just about every part of the media apart from my little bit of it.

By that I mean blindness to the fact that the building industry is huge, employs lots and lots of different people in different jobs and that there is a difference between a builder and a builders merchant and a plumber and plumbers merchant.

Alan Ball’s bit was fine, although the viewers may have been led to believe he was a plumber. Declan Curry, the host, declared that ‘plumbers want to see a £500 grant to encourage people to switch their old boilers for new ones’. Well apart from the fact that the scheme isn’t after a grant, but a way of working together with government, it’s not just about plumbers.

It was merchants and manufacturers who first started talking about this scheme and it was plumbers merchant, Mick Williams, who set the petition up on the Downing Street website. We do certainly have plumbers supporting the campaign, Charlie Mullins, the high profile md of Pimlico Plumbers for a start, and Paul Braithwaite and Simon Duddy, my counterparts at installer magazines Heating and Ventilating Review and Heating and Ventilating News, were both early adopters.

It’s just the way the whole distribution sector is ignored that gets my goat. It was the same at the beginning of the Get Britain Building Campaign, where, despite all the tremendous efforts put in by the BMF, you rather got the impression that most people thought it was just about the guys on the building sites. If you search Google’s news search engine for the words ‘builders merchants’, you get far more stories come up about builders merchants if you just put in the word ‘builders’.

When Shanker Patel of Lords Builders Merchants in Park Royal was interviewed on BBC News24 back in July, the interviewer had great difficulty getting his head round the ‘builders merchants’ bit of it (the clip is on YouTube if you want to check it out

I don’t know that there’s a solution to this and if there is I certainly don’t have it, but I know – as do merchants, builders, plumbers, and manufacturers ¬- just how valuable a service the merchant industry provides to the construction sector. It’s a shame we seem to be the only ones.


About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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