Many tradespeople and customers alike have become accustomed to using large retailers and online merchants. But what about the great British independent retailer? You might be surprised to hear that, alongside unrivalled service and unbiased, honest advice, your shopping basket at the end of your visit is likely to be cheaper! Buying locally is something being promoted across many sectors as a way (amongst many other things) to help boost the UK economy. In this article, The IPG discusses the benefits of buying from an independent and supporting small businesses in the process. 

The IPG was formed in 2013 with one mission; to bring independent plumbing, heating, and bathroom specialists together, and in turn, to give their customers the opportunity to buy great brands locally at the best prices. The IPG believes that the independent merchant should have a voice and a better chance to compete in the market given all the challenges facing them today. They have partnered with some of their members to share their vision and to tell us the various benefits of buying from an independent.

Buying from an independent merchant is a significant contributing factor in supporting local employment, our entrepreneurs, boosting UK innovation, as well as maintaining traditions and increasing environmental benefits. And with a recent survey revealing 73% of Brits associate UK manufacturers with higher quality*, it's no wonder that the trend to buy from an independent, many of whom support British manufacturing, is growing in popularity in the UK.

So, what are the benefits of buying from an independent?

1) Expert knowledge - the information and advice offered to you will be unbiased and specifically tailored to your project and needs, peace of mind at its best. 

2) Friendly service – you can’t beat discussing a project with someone who knows what they’re talking about, in an environment where you can see and feel the products you’re buying. The IPG members pride themselves on their customer service. Projects can be complicated, and sometimes things can go wrong. Having the option of visiting or picking up the phone to your local independent store, where you will find an expert on hand to help solve many dilemmas, quickly and efficiently, can be a life-saver.

Justin Protheroe of WMI Simpsons, commented: 

“It’s not just about the price, it's about the service. Even to the point where people can ring you up outside of hours (if they’re in trouble) and you can go to the shop and give them what they need - we do that and that's a huge advantage to many of our customers. We are very reactive, for example, a customer rung us this morning, his van is in the garage but he was meant to come and pick up a bathroom suite today, so I told him that we would deliver it to him this afternoon - he's given me a problem so I have given him a solution.”

3)  Supporting your local economy - often a common myth is that buying from an independent merchant will be more expensive, however in most cases, this just isn’t the case - in fact it’s sometimes the total opposite. Independent merchants also recycle a much larger share of their revenue back into the local economy, creating jobs and investing in their staff, enriching the whole community.

Steve Bates of Aquadart, an IPG supplier commented: 

“Customers buying from an independent merchant are extremely important to our business, as again independent stores support the local economy by creating jobs and providing a more personal and professional service. We actively encourage this through our external sales team who endeavour to form a good working relationship with merchants, offering The IPG merchants’ excellent terms, service and promotions, to help grow the business together.”

4)  Location - this is key, why not invest your time and money into your own community. Support your local merchants who take pride in ensuring that all their customers are fully equipped and prepared for their next project, big or small. 

Trevor Moore, Director of Splash Plumbing & Heating Ltd, commented: 

“It’s more than just the ‘location’, this extends to the relationship with customers and localised knowledge of the area and an understanding of the plumbers’ needs. I stock certain products at my Reading branch, because I know my customers and I know there is a need for it in the area, whereas I recognise in my Egham branch there are different needs and I can tailor the stock accordingly.”

5)  Stock and products - an independent merchant will go above and beyond to source the most efficient, cost-effective products - with a quick turnaround. They will stock products that are not based on a national sales plan, thus guaranteeing a broader range of products, ensuring that your best interests and individual needs are the priority. 

Ross Pavey, Finance Director at Gasbits, commented:

“We can provide a much deeper level of knowledge and service, than larger chains. We often see people coming to us after visiting a larger chain, having not got the advice or product they needed. At the end of the day, if we don’t get it right, we haven't done our job properly and that isn’t what we want. We always go the extra mile to help our customers get what they need with solid advice in the timeline required.”

The advantages of buying from an independent are clear, not only are they more competitive in terms of price, but for them it’s about more than just the price, it’s more than the service - it’s about the fact that independents are there to help their customers.     

Justin Protheroe of WMI Simpsons, concluded;

“I have bought from an independent, I run an independent and I have also sold into independents from a representative’s perspective. I think, well, I don’t think, I know, (because I have been on all sides of it) that independents can make decisions quickly. Have you heard the old terminology ‘the computer says no’? That doesn’t happen with us and I don't think that happens with any independent merchant because you are talking to the guy who can make the decision. In my experience, they can make the call there and then, independents are very quick and fast-paced, and it is personal.” 

Nike Lovell, Head of Marketing at The IPG, concluded: 

“We have a growing network of over 200 independent merchants, who pride themselves on being able to offer an in-depth, knowledgeable service. Some of our members have been in business for decades, meaning that this expert independent knowledge is carefully passed on from generation to generation and their reputation is outstanding! Often, the relationships created between our members and their customers go beyond purchases, in many cases, they become trusted advisors and friends.”