The NMBS Exhibition, which took place on 16 April, enjoyed record exhibitor numbers, record visitor levels and a record value for deals done on the day.

Chris Hayward, managing director at NMBS, said: "Every year, thanks to a combination of careful planning, continued refinement and sustained investment, the NMBS Exhibition continues to go from strength to strength. In 2014, the show set a new benchmark helped in part by the amalgamation with United Merchants and the move to both a bigger venue, in the form of the Ricoh Arena, and a time slot earlier in the year, enabling members and suppliers to make more of deals on seasonal products.

"Raising the bar again in 2015 was never going to be easy but we're delighted to report that the show's performance this year has surpassed even our best expectations."

In total, over 700 member delegates visited the exhibition - more than at any other time in the shows 50-year history. They were greeted by an equally record-breaking number of exhibitors, appearing across 340 exhibition stands. Demand for space at the show was at such high levels that it sold out just two weeks after going on sale.

Many of the NMBS suppliers exhibiting had gone all out to attract merchants onto their stands.

Some of the many highlights included a golf competition on the Tarmac Building Products' stand and a mini casino on the Kingspan stand.

There was also the chance to meet celebrities on the day. Visitors to the Crystal Direct stand were able to meet a very special guest - former WBO middleweight and super-middleweight world champion, Steve Collins. The manufacturer of PVC-U windows also ran a competition to see who could hit a punch ball the hardest, with a pair of boxing gloves signed by Steve on offer for the winner. On the Parker Merchanting stand there was the opportunity to meet Colin Charvis, the Former Captain of the Welsh Rugby Union Team who was signing merchandise throughout the day.

Keen to make the most of the special deals being offered by suppliers on the day, as well as the extra rebate being offered not just at the show but throughout the entire month of April, merchants placed orders at the exhibition worth millions of pounds.

Mr Hayward said: "Since its introduction, the NMBS Exhibition has had one clear aim - to be a show that means business. As part of our commitment to strengthening independents, NMBS always aims to deliver an event that encourages and stimulates trading between our members and suppliers for the benefit of everyone involved. This year, as every year, it seems the NMBS Exhibition has delivered on that goal."

Gala Dinner

The night before the NMBS Exhibition, NMBS staged another highly successful Gala Dinner. The event, which offers networking opportunities in a relaxed and informal setting, attracted over 500 guests representing a broad spectrum of NMBS' 1,000-strong membership and supplier base of over 650 companies.

The dinner again took place at the E.On Lounge in the Ricoh Arena, Coventry. The evening began with an address from NMBS chairman Tim Allen, who gave an update on the NMBS' continued performance.

2014 was NMBS' best ever year. Helped by the amalgamation with United Merchants, its turnover has risen by 87% to £1.28bn.

At the same time, member and supplier numbers have also increased significantly, while operating costs have been driven down to just 0.06% of turnover. In total, NMBS paid out close to £55m in rebate and settlement over the last year - an increase of 86%.

Mr Allen concluded by thanking members and suppliers for their continued support, adding that 2015 promises to be even better as NMBS continues to pursue new opportunities. 

A prize draw bundle of £1,000-worth of Apple products, kindly sponsored by global power tool manufacturer Makita, was won by Maggie Parish from Brett Landscaping.

The draw was open to all those who made table donations on the evening. In total, these donations raised almost £6,000 for NMBS' two chosen charities - The Rainy Day Trust and CRASH.

Mr Hayward also presented a special award to Laurence Thomas from Kent Blaxill & Co, who retired this year. The award was to both thank and acknowledge Mr Thomas for his invaluable contribution to the independent merchant sector and to NMBS.

The Gala Dinner concluded with the main speaker for the evening, Colonel Tim Collins OBE.

An authority on the subject of leadership and a regular expert commentator in the media on global security issues, Colonel Collins enjoyed a long and distinguished Army career that included serving with the SAS.

He is perhaps best known for his eve of battle address given as commanding officer of the 1st Royal Irish Battle Group preceding the first Gulf War. A copy of this speech is reputed to be hung on the wall of the White House's Oval Office.

During his speech, Colonel Collins entertained guests with his experiences gained while on active service in Iraq and the Balkans.

Speaking of the evening, Mr Hayward said: "The NMBS Gala Dinner perfectly embodies our commitment to strengthening independents by bringing merchants and building industry suppliers together in a mutually beneficial and commercially advantageous way. We're delighted the event was so well attended and that the feedback from those who attended on the evening has been so positive. As ever, our thanks must go to the NMBS Events team for their efforts in arranging such an enjoyable and successful night."