Home Insulation Taking a 200-year builder’s merchant legacy into the future

Taking a 200-year builder’s merchant legacy into the future

by Jennie Ward

James Beesley, Commercial Director at Beesley & Fildes, discusses the challenges and opportunities of taking a 200-year-old business forward as a 21st century builder’s merchant, and what this means for customers.

James Beesley, Commercial Director, Beesley & Fildes.

“On the walls of the Beesley & Fildes boardroom in Huyton, Merseyside, there are pictures of generations of Beesleys, all of whom proudly look on as the company continues to grow. As the newest generation to join the family business, I feel extremely proud to look up at those faces, but it’s a legacy that also comes with huge responsibility.

“Things have changed considerably since those photographs were taken. My father and the team he built at Beesley & Fildes have transformed the company from a single site builder’s merchant to a company with 11 branches and a 340-strong team. These days, we have a range of specialisms, including roofing and insulation, along with an online sales capability, with UK-wide delivery. Our plans include expanding our product range to increase more eco-friendly items including solar panels.

“Having spent the past decade in a five-star hospitality environment driving high standards of customer service and training teams to put the customer front and centre of everything they do, my new remit is to play a central role in developing a strategy to guide and support our team in taking Beesley & Fildes to its next level of growth. Scalability, systems and the customer experience will all be key aspects of this strategic approach as we balance the potential for expansion with the need to stay true to our family business principles of value, customer care and expert knowledge.

Value and added value
“I may be new to the Beesley & Fildes leadership team, but the company is in my blood. I grew up during a period of growth that has seen the business evolve into a regional builder’s merchant with a national reach, so I have a best-of-both-worlds approach to understanding where we need to leverage our traditional values while embracing change. I know the business and our customers inside out, but I am also a fresh pair of eyes from a completely different sector, having previously been golf director at one of the world’s foremost resorts, and a director of a mystery shopping and training company.

“Our experience of serving generations of customers – often as contractors have been passed from one generation to the next – is that there are two key components for building loyalty: value and added value.

“As far as value is concerned, our goal is to offer competitive and flexible pricing across our very broad portfolio, so that our customers always trust us on price. But we won’t be pushed into a race to the bottom: our approach to pricing is that it should be fair and accountable. When you start making being cheapest your top priority, something else usually suffers, and that might include product quality or service levels, which are two of the areas on which we will never compromise. We do like to reward loyalty with special offers and discounts; however, they form part of a strategy that’s all about honest pricing and reliability across service, quality and lead times.

“Added value is where we can make a real difference to our customers and help them overcome challenges or offer a better solution for their own customers. Our mission is to help them get their projects done on time, on budget and to the highest quality standards, and we’re here to provide them with the support and advice they need to do that. We have six product specialists, for roofing, timber, civils, plumbing & heating, heavyside and hardware, and soon to include insulation, along with a very knowledgeable team of sales and counter staff, which helps us ensure we have the right products in stock, and that are always able to respond to customers’ requirements.

“The right solution might not always be what the customer initially asked for, because it may be that our experienced team can suggest something that has a shorter lead time, faster installation, less waste or improved buildability – any of which could help to reduce costs.

“Our specialisms also mean that we’re continuously factoring in trends in specific sectors, both in terms of innovation and market challenges. For example, our roofing specialist, Steve Linacre, brought new lines of tiles and a good supply of rooflights into stock to offer improved choice to roofing customers, countering industry-wide supply chain challenges. In this way, we’ve been helping roofing contractors to avoid the risk of losing out on jobs due to lead time issues.

“Enabling customers to choose to order from us in a way that suits them is also key to our strategy of adding value. They can opt to come into branch or buy online, and they can collect, take delivery at their yard or have product delivered to site. We know our customers need to be agile and adaptable, so we are developing our business to support that principle.

Evolution and integration
“The products we supply are constantly evolving, and the construction disciplines we cater for are too. Some of our customers work in a particular type of contracting, while for others, the one-stop-shop approach we offer is of real value because it saves them time and means they can deal with a single, trusted partner. Civils is the latest addition to our range of specialisms, which means we can offer complete, joined up supply from the groundworks, drainage and road improvements element of a project, right through to the roof, including all aspects of the building envelope, the interior walls and doors, and the kitchen and bathroom.

“Construction sectors have weathered the storm of the pandemic well, but costs, skills and lead times are all putting contractors under extreme pressure. At Beesley & Fildes, our aim is to make life simpler by providing experienced, value-driven products and customer service across everything our customers’ sites require.”


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