MacBlair Larne scooped the coveted Best in Management award at the fifth Octabuild Builders Merchant Awards for Northern Ireland. Building Ireland touched base with personable branch manager Barry McKay to find out more about this top-class, customer-focussed builder’s providers operation.
Each year a who’s who of leading building material manufacturers – namely Gyproc, Dulux Paints, Glennon Brothers, Kingspan Insulation, Sanbra Fyffe, Tegral and Wavin – come together to organise the prestigious Octabuild Builders Merchant Awards for Northern Ireland. At this year’s awards ceremony in April, McBlair – your local building merchants, with 16 branches located across Northern Ireland – struck gold on the double.
MacBlair Larne took home the Best in Management award. Part of the MacBlair network – the leading supplier of building materials to the construction and DIY industry in Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man – for twelve years, MacBlair Larne has been delivering the goods in Larne for a century.
An excellently-managed small business located in a small town, MacBlair Larne offers customers a full range of building materials and generates gainful employment for a dedicated 13-strong team, truly embracing the group’s customer service ethos of ‘Here to Help’.
The dedicated team take great pride in ensuring that their extensive knowledge of the products they sell is constantly developed through a program of continuous training, which allows them to offer the best possible solutions to a loyal local customer base.
“We are delighted as a branch to have received this award,” states manager Barry McKay. “It’s always nice to receive any award and we are happy that the judges recognised our efforts.”
As its roots go to the early 20th century, MacBlair Larne is arguably the oldest branch in the MacBlair group, and indeed one of the longest-established builder’s providers businesses on the island, stocking a full range of building materials, plumbing and heating, timber, floors and door, roofing, hardware, painting and decorating, civil & groundworks and garden & landscaping materials as well as tools and workwear.
“This business has been based in Larne for 100 years and has been part of the group for twelve,” Barry confirms. “It has enjoyed a long and successful history, from being a sawmill, then a hardware and timber store before becoming a general builder’s merchants.
“This isn’t a massive town. It’s a tight-knit community and the business is well-known here. It’s been here a long time and has reinvented itself accordingly whenever necessary and moved with the times.”
And the contribution to the make-up of the local landscape has no doubt been immeasurable? “That’s true. Over the years a lot of products would have come out of our depot and been used extensively in maintenance, renovation and building in the town. We cover other areas as well. As I said, Larne is a small town so you need custom from surrounding areas to sustain you. We have a lot of customers within a ten-mile radius, into Carrickfergus and Ballyclare and further north up along the Causeway Coast.”
While the Octabuild award won by MacBlair Larne was for Best in Management, the branch manager is quick to stress that it’s not an award earned by him. Instead, he points out that a team effort is behind the success of the store…
“There are 13 people working here and they all play a huge part in the business. This is a management award but it’s definitely not down to me. It’s an award for everybody in the branch and I have a strong management team working alongside me. It’s such a small team that everybody has to pull their weight and play their part in order for us to be successful. We’re very fortunate to have a young, energetic and committed team with great knowledge and the fact that they are all locally based is an added bonus.”
Meanwhile, making it a famous MacBlair double at the 2018 Octabuild Builders Merchant Awards for Northern Ireland, MacBlair Boucher Belfast captured the Multi-Location Branch Award. In business for 45 years, MacBlair Boucher Belfast has 35 staff and describes itself as much more than a builder’s merchant, specialising in Doors & Ironmongery, Civils, Bathrooms, Paint & Plumbing, striving to fulfil every need of its customers under the one roof.
Service is always to the forefront at every MacBlair branch – be it Antrim, Ballymoney, Bangor, Belfast Boucher, Belfast Dundrue, Belfast Rosetta, Belfast MacBlair Paint, Coleraine, Coleraine MacBlar Painting, Cookstown, Criagavon, Downpatrick, Eglington, Larne, Lisburn, Derry or Douglas (Isle of Man) – and stocking a comprehensive range of materials enables MacBlair Larne to provide unrivalled service levels:
“We have a vast range of timbers, including sheet materials, as well as floors and doors, plumbing and heating materials, landscaping products, a very popular bathroom showroom, etc. It’s a very diverse range and we pride ourselves on being able to source anything that a customer requires. For example, we have access to a joinery workshop to create bespoke doors and we mix paints here … anything to give that personal touch and look after the customer.”
Meanwhile, a fresh fleet of vehicles offers prompt and dependable delivery of materials to site. Regarding the key to MacBlair Larne’s enduring success, the branch manager notes:
“It’s very important to listen to customers and gain their trust. You can gain their trust by providing excellent customer service and going the extra mile, essentially treating them as you would like to be treated yourself. Our motto is ‘Here to Help’ and that’s what we abide by.
“We do business with local contractors and builders, while the self-build market is also growing. With the self-build customers, they are trying to build a dream home and they will generally only do this once so they need to get it right first time. They want everything done right but they have to get guidance. The team here buys into that and makes sure that those dreams do become a reality.
“As well as our long-standing trade customers, we also have a healthy retail customer base. Any time a DIY customer comes in looking for advice, we will go out of our way to help.”
Prudence, knowledge of the market and careful planning are also critical to running a successful builder’s merchants in a small town: “As a small branch, our stock management has to be right because we don’t have the luxury of bringing in pallet upon pallet and leaving it lying around indefinitely,” Barry concludes. “I’m proud of how well we do that and it enables us to offer customers what they want when they want it, conveniently and at a fair price.”
52 Circular Road
Tel: 028 28272031
Taken from Building Ireland Magazine, October 2018, Vol 4 No 9