When it comes to satisfying customer needs, KCR Builders Providers understand the changing tide of the construction industry and have weathered the ebb and flow of the last number of challenging years. As the sector improves, they have expanded their business and capitalised on the recovery while remaining true to their core values of close customer relationships and quality service. The business operates in two locations with their original outlet situated in Kimmage and the new outlet based on Holly Road, Dublin 12.
KCR Builders Providers opened the doors of the Kimmage outlet in 1989 and David Gavin took over running the family business in 2004. “My grandfather and my father used to supply to KCR Builders Providers under its previous owners since the early 1960s. In 1989, my father, Michael Gavin, took ownership of the business. Earlier this year, we opened a second outlet on Holly Road in Dublin 12,” David explains.
The Holly Road outlet
“This second outlet is much bigger than our Kimmage store and follows a warehouse layout where products are openly displayed and also includes a trade counter for sales. Purchasing in bigger quantities enables us to give our trade customers a better price and the extra space allows us to carry a wider range of products.”
KCR Builders Providers focus on the heavy building end of the construction industry with stock ranging from concrete, insulation and timber products to metals and smaller scale items, such as nails, screws, paint brushes and paint. “Across both outlets, our customer profile is around 80% building and trades people, and 20% DIY enthusiasts. The catchment area we cover is mainly the greater Dublin area and across Leinster,” says David.
Encompassing an impressive 15,000 square feet with an external yard of 35,000 square feet, this outlet caters to the target demographic by providing products in bulk at a location that is easily accessible from the M50 and city centre, with ample space for loading. Staff can access all stock in either outlet through an integrated point of sale computer system. The opening of the Holly Road outlet in May featured food from Teddy’s ice-cream van and Zero Zero Pizzas, along with 14 supplier information stands, great spot prizes and an opportunity to meet Leinster and Ireland rugby star, Jack McGrath.
The Kimmage outlet
Although the Kimmage outlet is smaller with an overall size of 4,400 square feet, it has served the business well and an external UK-based retail company found that, based on sales turnover per square foot, it is one of the busiest outlets in Europe. This is thanks to its accessible location near Dublin city centre, a strategic product offering and the quality of staff. Serving a busy residential area, it is particularly well supported by a large number of DIY enthusiasts and has a huge solid fuel business in the winter months.
“In Kimmage, we have a sale in November each year and on this one day alone there’s up to four artic lorry loads of solid fuel sold. The amount of traffic to the site is so intense that we need to have extra staff here to direct traffic due to queues and congestion. We promote this sale each year through door-to-door interaction and social media and it has proven very effective,” he added.
Staff and customer service
Gaining and maintaining customer loyalty is a vital aspect of how the business is run. Key factors in preserving customer loyalty include transparency, honesty, clarity of pricing, certified products and correct procedures. “I asked staff a couple of weeks ago why people come here rather than another store and they all said location and customer service. We hear stories of customers in other outlets who are left standing around and aren’t acknowledged, whereas we like to get to know our customers on a first-name basis and establish a personal relationship. Speed of service at the counter is important along with quick and efficient loading in the yards. This is vital in order to minimise customer time at the trade counter and to save them money as they usually need to get back to their sites as soon as possible,” says David.
Customers praise the excellent product knowledge of staff as well as their approachable manner, David reports. People are welcome to evaluate and examine products and the value of their custom is appreciated whether they are a new customer or a familiar face. The company’s willingness to go out of their way for customer needs is evident in their flexibility to work outside of standard opening hours in order to facilitate builders and their unpredictable work schedules. With the longest serving staff member in employment for almost 20 years, it is clear that KCR Builders Providers values loyalty and experience. Five employees joined the team within the last two years and David is passionate about their work environment being as engaging and motivating as possible. The company supports training across all product categories as well as courses on health and safety and first aid training. The business employs a HR company to ensure that staff have an informed contact for any queries relating to contracts, wages, holidays and any other issues they need to address. Uniforms are provided to make staff identifiable to customers and to ensure that good standards of appearance are maintained.
“It’s all about team work, we look at ourselves as friends and even family and we aim to be as close-knit and connected as a family unit in order to excel in the industry,” David comments.
Dealing with the downturn
David admits the recession was challenging. In 2007, they initially considered purchasing a second location on Holly Road but decided against it at the last moment. This has proven to be a wise decision as the new premises, which they did purchase late last year, is three times the size and seven times less expensive as well as, coincidentally, being situated in the same area.
During the economic downturn, some staff regrettably had to be let go but, following the gradual upturn in business, there are now 12 employees working between the two outlets with plans to keep increasing those numbers.
David believes that the outlook for the future of the business is largely positive as customer feedback suggests that work is growing and the construction industry is coming alive again.
“There’s a positivity there that wasn’t present in 2009 and onwards. Back then, you would never ask someone how they were, rather you would say ‘great day, isn’t it?’ because asking ‘how are you?’ usually
resulted in a mostly negative response. It’s good to be back to a time when it’s safe to ask how someone is and how business is, because people are generally busy and positive as the economy improves,” says David.
One of the day-to-day challenges of the business is managing the volumes of paperwork involving self-certification for architects and builders which the merchant must follow-up. David explains that while many of their customers are hands-on rather than academic by nature, they are expected to be quite academically-minded in order to cope with the increasing level of administration following changes in regulation and legislation.
As things improve, extended credit is a big issue facing the industry, he believes. With the competitive drive to sell more, the pressure to give unnecessary credit to customers is mounting but businesses need to keep their own margins on a viable and stable level. David emphasises that the lowest price is not particularly the best way to achieve a sale and that there is a need to invest in product knowledge, service, efficiency and educating the customer on their available choices in order to continue to grow.
Another concern on the horizon is the risk of a lack of availability of quality staff in Dublin as prices continue to rise in the housing market within the greater Dublin area. High rent in Dublin means that staff are residing elsewhere and commuting long hours, which places a strain on their quality of life and wages. This means that staff might prefer to relocate to jobs that are closer to home, leaving a shortage around Dublin.
Closing on a positive note, David says that the recovery has definitely been felt at KCR Builders Providers with a 30% increase in sales since 2012 and a further 15% predicted within the next year.
“KCR Builders Providers in Kimmage has been very good to us over the last 27 years and our new outlet on Holly Road is there to make Kimmage a more accessible and easier place to buy from by diverting some of that customer traffic to the new location. We plan to expand the new outlet in the future and, with the two of them working together, we hope that both outlets can grow and thrive alongside our customers and their livelihoods.”