National Buying Group (NBG) has rallied its Partners to sharpen their focus on working with Suppliers to “buy better” amidst an increasingly challenging building products market.

The organisation’s recent annual Partner event saw a representative from each of its 83-strong partnership of independent merchants gather to review and discuss the organisation’s strategy.

The event followed a strong year for the buying group, which saw it achieve a 30% growth in purchases for the year to April 2022, while its total number of branches grew to 445.

A focus of the event, a keynote speech from NBG Managing Director Nick Oates, explored the potential for the independent merchant to survive and thrive in challenging times through effective collaboration with suppliers across a variety of categories. This speech saw attendees reminded of how the agility of the independent sector and the eight NBG Category Management Teams strongly positions the organisation to endure ongoing supply chain disruption.

The democratic structure of NBG was evident throughout, with every attendee given the opportunity to have their say on a variety of business-critical issues both through focus groups and – for the first time – a voting function on a dedicated NBG app.

Partners were able to cast their views on a range of issues including the organisation’s bid to lead the industry’s response to the mounting financial burden on plastic packaging and the service they receive from Suppliers. Live reporting of survey results allowed for pertinent debate among those in attendance.

Also on the agenda was an in-depth training session on the buying group’s Product Information Management (PIM) system. Developed to meet a growing need for accurate and timely product and pricing information from suppliers, the PIM platform is enabling the buying group’s Partners to sell more efficiently thanks to up-to-the-minute information available via a centralised database.

“This year’s Partner event came at a time when many are feeling the impact of the price increases,” said Nick. “This includes lead time extensions and service challenges Suppliers are susceptible to, which allowed us to really narrow our focus on what we need to do to continue to thrive. Last year was a positive one for the Group, so naturally we’re eager to maintain that momentum despite the challenges posed by a multitude of national and international issues.

“By introducing our very own app for the first time, we were able to canvass Partners’ views on a range of topics almost instantly, which helped to inform the course of the debates and breakout sessions we had in place.

“We recognise that the coming months will be tough for our sector, but remain confident that our partnership structure and the collaboration this encourages puts us in a strong position to continue to thrive.”