Ibstock Brick has reiterated its support for independent builders’ merchants, pledging to “look after” them during 2018.

Speaking yesterday at its Independent Builders’ Merchants Forum, Director of Sales – Builders Merchants Simon Taylor apologised for issues the company had caused for merchants last year and set out a raft of measures designed to make it easier to work with this year.

Ibstock Brick is:

• reducing the number of Engineering bricks it is producing by a quarter to ensure it can supply the increasing demand for facing bricks

• implementing a “more stringent” ordering process to ensure expectations are set when an order is made

• introducing a new budget volume system that enables it to be more proactive before taking on new business

• rationalising its product range to enable it to be more agile in meeting market demands

• accepting builders’ merchants’ depot schedules for the full year

• improving how it communicates with merchants about stock availability

• releasing a new monthly catalogue of non-best products to give merchants new options.

“We believe all of the above has set us up to manage our order book much better this year,” Taylor said. “Our aim is to make ourselves easier to work with.”

Ibstock Brick had identified 44 products that it could remove from its range. Discontinuing products was “never popular” but it was “doing all we can to protect builders’ merchants products” such as the Tradesman range, and Taylor was confident that its sales to builders’ merchant would increase significantly again this year.

“We have more products in our range than our competitors do. If we want to be slicker, more agile to meet our customers’ demands, we need to have fewer products in the range,” he said.

Other speakers at the Forum – the 21st that Ibstock Brick has run for its independent builders’ merchant customers – also emphasised merchants’ importance. Sales Director Tony France, giving an overview of the bricks market and of Ibstock Brick’s activity over the past year, said the company and its customers had to work closely together to stay successful.

“Builders’ merchants’ depot stock is still our absolute number one priority,” he said. “We’re continuing to expand our production and we will continue to look after you.”

Production Director Andrew Craddock provided more detail about Ibstock Brick’s investment in its production capability since the 2017 Forum, including its new Eclipse factory in Leicester – the biggest brickworks in the UK and the biggest development project that Ibstock Brick had ever undertaken.

The investment in its factories across the UK meant that key products were secured and the company was now able to consider other products that it had not previously had capacity for. This was good news for merchants: “We have a history of continual investment, and we are investing significantly in the future. We are combining cutting edge technology with traditional manufacturing, and we are continually considering investment opportunities to meet growing demand. Our investment means that more Ibstock bricks will be available in 2018.

“We’ll look at all the options we have to grow our business and support your business going forward.”

And new CEO Joe Hudson concluded: “I think [builders’ merchants] play a huge and vital role in the whole construction eco system. You know your local markets, people trust you, you understand what they need, you offer credit, you know the trends – you play a really important role.

“We will continue to partner with you. It’s great to see independent builders’ merchants are doing very well at the moment, and I hope that continues.”