This year's BMF All-Industry Conference began in style this morning, as John Newcomb, managing director of the Builders' Merchants Federation, welcomed delegates to Vilamoura in Portugal's Algarve region.

The theme of this year's Conference, 'Fit for the Future', was chosen to incorporate and discuss three key issues: focus, innovation and teamwork, and Mr Newcomb outlined how the BMF itself is living up to those values as it looks to what lies ahead.

The Federation has gone through a huge change in the past 12 months, under its new mission statement that the BMF should be a "fully inclusive Federation that is the authoritative voice of the merchant industry".

To achieve that end the BMF has created a new website, new literature, moved from its London headquarters to new purpose-built offices in Coventry, and has employed two new regional managers.

All these changes have, Mr Newcomb believes, already had a positive effect. For the first time in 10 years the BMF's overall membership has grown, and the Federation now has 336 member companies.

Two new merchants, Beatsons and EH Smith, join the BMF officially on the 1 July.

Looking to the future, Mr Newcomb said the BMF will continue to invest in its people, with more new staff joining during June and July. He also said he was hopeful that a fourth regional manager could be recruited at the end of the year, if membership continues to grow.

The BMF is also keen to continue to build relationships with other key industry associations including NMBS, Unimer, NBG and the CBA, among others.

Mr Newcomb also announced a new joint partnership with IBC, where a new group membership deal will add up to 100 new merchant members to the BMF by the end of the year.

A complete package of new member services will be launching soon, with merchant industry market research being carried out by research company GfK exclusively for BMF customers, and the BMF's new Trade Credit Guarantee Scheme being made available on 1 July.

New business guides on CE Marking were made available for the first time at the conference.

The BMF Members Day will this year take place on 17 and 18 September.

The BMF is also re-introducing its Burns Night, which will be held in Glasgow on 24 January, 2014.

Mr Newcomb said: "The BMF is setting a great example of a business that's getting itself Fit for the Future. Are you and your businesses Fit for the Future?"