Morris Builders Providers (MBP) doesn’t think of itself as single retail business. As CEO Seamus Reynolds outlines to HAI, the extensive premises brings multiple specialist ‘stores’ under one roof to create the ultimate DIY destination.
The unique business model of Waterford’s Morris Builders Providers gives its customers the best of all worlds. Within a single expansive premises, trade and DIY customers enjoy the specialist knowledge of dedicated stores and showrooms, along with the convenience of one stop shopping.
“We cover everything you require for all your building, plumbing, DIY, electrical appliances, décor and home enhancement needs,” says CEO Seamus Reynolds.
“Each of these individual smaller ‘businesses’ on our site requires a different approach to meet the specific needs of their customers. This calls for the highest levels of expert knowledge and services from our team.”
This set-up has also helped Morris Builders Providers identify new markets and areas of growth and adapt to meet the demand. For example, adding a garden centre and updating its home heating offer.
Stores within the store
Building materials customers require stock availability, keen prices, product knowledge and fast service. The team in the sales office, reps and counter sales, yard support and customer delivery are focused on excelling at providing these requirements.
Plumbing and heating customers seek the same benefits, but also expect ‘how to’ advice and technical information. Seamus explains: “The counter team providing this service is supported by our Plumbing Manager, together with Justin Ryan, our specialist on all aspects of renewable energy, heat pump systems and heat recovery and ventilation.”
“Due to changes in building regulations, home heating systems now require a totally different skillset. We have developed this in recent years.”
The extensive paint department serves professional painters, DIY customers and interior designers. Uniquely, Morris Builders Providers offer a Paint Décor trade centre and retail paint shop all in one.
“This means we have 10 or 15 painters’ vans outside our door each morning when we open at 7.30am to facilitate them.
And throughout the day, there is a steady flow of customers coming for advice from our incredibly knowledgeable staff of four full-time and three part-time.”
Most brands are carried, including Dulux, Crown, Fleetwood, Colourtrend, Johnston’s, Ronseal and Rustin’s, supported by a comprehensive range of accessories, adhesives and silicones needed for any job.
For Bathroom and Kitchen showrooms, eye-catching up-to-date displays and variety are vital, supported by expert sales people who listen to the customer’s requirements and help them achieve their desired finish. Accessories such as bathroom fittings, mirrors and toilet seats are located nearby for link sales.
Choice and service are priorities also when it comes to Doors & Floors. Here too, accessories such as door handles and flooring essentials are beside the showroom.
“Selling home appliances is a good fit for our business as electrical goes hand in hand with designing, supplying and fitting kitchens,” notes Seamus.
MBP also showcases a full range of solid fuel stoves (four working models) and electric wall fires (12 working models) in a dedicated space.
“Because this department is next to our plumbing and heating counter, it’s easy for customers to get expertise on stoves that have the capacity to heat radiators.”
The department stocks all the add-ons: fireguards, coal buckets and more.
Competition in the Tools and DIY market is intense. To be more competitive, Morris Builders Providers recently increased range and floor space.
The revamped department now features a dedicated tools counter, with a wide selection of hardware, safety clothing, fixings and other necessities nearby, an extensive power tools display spanning 24 feet, and a comprehensive line-up of hand tools. Two fulltime employees trained by suppliers provide knowledgeable service.
To complement existing business in lawn, hand and power tools, Morris’ added a garden centre in 2019. Everything for the gardener in an impressive array of plants and shrubs, tools, fencing, compost and chemicals. “The extra floor space allows us to properly showcase our extensive range of Garden furniture and BBQs”, adds Seamus. Lighting, Homewares and Cleaning areas complete the comprehensive offer.
This “one shop does it all” approach is rooted in the company’s history. When, in 1983, Waterford’s main builder’s merchants, Graves, were closing down, 16 local builders joined forces to create an all-embracing builder’s providers to supply themselves and the local building trade.
The partners bought an existing established hardware business in the city, Samuel Morris Ltd. Two from the original 16 are among the three owners today.
For the first two years the business operated on the Samuel Morris site in Railway Square. The owners then purchased land less than half a mile away and moved to the present site. Having survived the bust of 2007 and the recession, by 2012 Morris Builders Providers could start making plans for improving business operations, starting with physical developments. In 2015 the company began redevelopment of its 5-acre site to increase retail space by 25,000+ sq. ft to 50,000 sq. ft and re-lay its building yard.
“The new premises has allowed us to showcase our products better and truly become an across-the-board business that, through range and services, can supply everything you need to build, fit out and decorate your home.” And improvements are ongoing, Seamus states. “Together with our suppliers, we are constantly improving product presentation and display to enhance the shopper experience.”
Most recently Morris’ updated their bathroom showrooms in conjunction with suppliers Sonas, Roca & Merlyn.
Such a business model depends on outstanding people and we are fortunate to have an exceptional team of colleagues. Each department is led by a manager who co-ordinates all aspects of day-to-day operations. They plan and communicate the requirements for that day/week and ensure complete and efficient implementation.
“This takes a depth of management, retail and product knowledge to maintain constant communication and provide awareness of team roles.” Out of 80 staff, 50% have more than 10 years’ tenure; many over 30 years’.
“Supporting our people is vital. In our business we find that equipping the team with a clear understanding of what we do, what is expected from them and the parameters that they work within provides a simple platform to work from.”
The company uses a mix of internal and external resources, including suppliers and specialists, in its training. Key areas are customer experience and health and safety.
MBP has developed a customer-centred programme with a local company that provides continuous training that adapts to changes in shopping habits.
An external business trains on all aspects of safety, from forklift to manual handling, also carrying out monthly safety audits and meeting with the in-house safety team to assess and address the findings.
“We also work with a firm who assist with loss prevention and margin protection, by conducting audits, providing training and developing solutions to reduce loss and maximise margin.”
Customers expect more The store is now serving more discerning shoppers, according to Seamus.
“Customers have access to the world on computer devices and will use apps like Instagram to get visual ideas. Before visiting, most will have researched their project and the products they might need and have some idea of what they want. And they will have checked out prices in the market.”
“We do our customer research too. It is incredibly important, particularly listening to our customers.” Morris Builders Providers has and will continue to make changes based on customer feedback. “Any experience or information that assists us in making improvements is welcomed.” Looking ahead Customer demands and their expectations for instant access for information 24/7 will present difficulties or opportunities depending on how a company approaches it, Seamus believes. “The need for all customer types (building and retail) to be able to order from their phone or desktop is becoming an increased pressure on our business. Between online shopping and social media, it’s essential that companies familiarise themselves and get on board. We are currently improving our website and expect to be trading on it shortly.”
“There is still a need for housing in Ireland and the repair/ improvement market should stay strong. The challenges are, and will continue to be, the supply chain.” Morris Builder’s Providers always strive to deal with Irish suppliers first. “It is critically important that builder’s providers support local/Irish companies to sustain our industry.” “We stay relevant and future-proofed by constantly monitoring our business, communicating and listening to our customers and watching the market in both housing and consumer trends,” Seamus affirms. “We will continue to examine our operation and our relevance and make necessary improvements to keep our business growing.” Communications and connections Morris Builder`s Providers takes its participation in various communities seriously and focuses on good communications and networks.
“For customers, we find that WLR (Southeast) radio station is an excellent route to reach and engage with people. We have a fulltime employee looking after all aspects of social media and this provides us with excellent coverage.” The store holds five “fantastic” one day sales every year, which draws in many customers. Business links include membership of Hardware Association Ireland, Builders Merchants Federation and they are a founding member of the Allied Merchants Buying Association.
“These affiliations offer valuable sources of information, collaboration and support to improve how they do business.” The store has won several Octabuild County and Provincial Awards. Morris Builder`s Providers are active within the Waterford community also, as sponsors for Waterford United FC, Tramore Racecourse and Waterford GAA. Secrets to success Asked for a top tip, Seamus, not surprisingly, found it hard to narrow down to just one, so instead shared his secrets for a successful store. Or should that be stores?
- Stock all major brands and seek to provide quality at competitive prices.
- Take pride in providing exceptional well-informed service and carrying a huge range of products.
- Keep the service message and the process of moving stock through the business simple.
- Invest in people and conduct continuous training.
- Constantly research to keep relevant.
In a nutshell, be competitive and have a point of difference. “In our case, good customer-focused staff, constant availability of stock and keen prices. And above all, make a profit!” That’s the Morris USP. Correction, USPs!