With 2013 marking its 50th trading anniversary, it is perhaps befitting that this year's NMBS Gala Dinner proved to be one of the most successful yet for the independent merchants' buying society.

At the event, which brought together record numbers of merchants and suppliers at The Telford International Centre, guests were treated to an informative insight into NMBS' history, its current successes and its future plans. They also enjoyed an entertaining, enlightening and at times inspirational speech from one of the world’s most famous football referees, Howard Webb.

Addressing the guests after dinner, Chris Hayward, NMBS' managing director, thanked members and suppliers for their contribution to NMBS' growth and evolution over the last half century – a period in which the merchant sector has seen both significant highs and lows.

He also drew the winner of a prize draw sponsored by Makita, with Mark Ogle from G H Brooks & Co claiming the prize of an Apple product bundle, before going on to announce the total of the evening's charity collection.

A total of £5,296.80 was collected for charity for the home improvement and enhancement industry The Rainy Day Trust. This included a £1,000 donation by Superglass.

Mr Hayward also presented an award to Mark Northway, financial director of Beatsons Building Supplies, for the company's support of the NMBS I Love Independents campaign. On 4 July 2012, the builders’ merchant sent out a mailer as part of NMBS’ I Love Independents challenge to over 800 recipients, celebrating 'Independents' Day' and highlighting the benefits of trading with independent merchants.

Mr Hayward was followed by NMBS non-executive chairman Tim Allen, who outlined how the buying society has continued to enjoy positive growth even in difficult financial times with turnover up 8 percent to £545m and running costs down to 0.19 percent of turnover.

Allen also explained more about NMBS' AYE 50 campaign which is seeing the buying society provide 50 new apprentices to the Builders Merchants Federation's apprenticeship scheme. NMBS hopes its efforts will help contribute to the employment possibilities of young people in today's tough economic climate as well as play a part in driving the future success of the merchant sector.

As no birthday is complete without a cake, Mr Hayward, Mr Allen and the NMBS team were also presented with a spectacular birthday cake by Eamon Allen – a director at Pavestone. The cake, which took the form of NMBS’ Leicester HQ, took 50 hours, 240 eggs and 20lbs of flour to produce. Perhaps even more impressively, it survived a two-hour car journey from Derby completely unscathed.

Mr Hayward said: “The NMBS Gala dinner, which takes place every year on the evening before our annual show in Telford, has become a must-attend event in the diaries of many independent merchants and suppliers alike. Given that 2013 represents a major milestone for NMBS, we are particularly pleased that this year’s dinner was an outright success and our biggest and best ever. I would like to thank everyone who attended and also our events team for all their efforts.”