Generic vs. specialist software for builders’ merchants

Almost every retailer in the UK now uses some sort of software on daily basis. Accounting software is ubiquitous, and point of sale software and retail management systems are increasingly common, even for SME retailers and independent stores.

15th February 2016

Builders’ merchants and DIY stores have a seemingly endless choice of retail software in front of them. Narrowing down the options can be difficult. An integrated system or separate modules? Free software with limited features, or paid for software that’s feature complete? While all these decisions are certainly important, we’d argue that the most significant choice of all is whether to opt for generic software or a system that’s created specifically for builders’ merchants.

Trade discounts

Basic retail software tends to be bare bones – you’ll only have the features you need to run accounts and offer a rudimentary point of sale service. There may be limited stock control elements and report templates. Builders’ merchants tend to be a little more complex than your standard B2C high street shop. For example, many free or generic retail software packages won’t offer you the ability to differentiate between trade rates and the full list price, nor state a standard percentage discount for trade customers. Of course, you can still work out trade rates manually using a calculator, but if you have plenty of trade, consider the time savings you could make with automatically calculated trade rates.

Quotations and invoices

Most builders’ merchants operate in both B2B and B2C territories, so it’s important to ensure your software package can deal with both. Trade customers will require quotes, invoices and other documentation. Many basic software packages won’t contain templates for these, so you’ll have to use Microsoft Word or another word processor to create your own. Specialist builders’ merchants software will already contain all the templates you need to automatically create quotes and invoices in just a few clicks.


Generic software tends to be cheaper than specialist software, as the developers are competing for a share of a bigger market. That means you’ll find plenty of providers who are willing to offer you a free trial, or feature-limited free versions of their software, in the hope that you’ll pay for a full version later. Specialist software essentially offers you extra features for a slightly higher price. Many providers will offer ‘tiered’ package options where the cost grows with your business. Ultimately you’ll have to weigh up the costs and benefits of the more specialist features and decide whether they’re worth it.


Another factor to consider is the quality of the support offered by the software provider. When something goes wrong with your system, you’ll want a swift response – but you’ll also want a competent one. If you are considering opting for generic retail software, ask the provider about their support team. Do they have experience in working with builders’ merchants? Specialist software providers are likely to have their own specialist support team who work with businesses like yours on a daily basis.


Overall, as a business you must evaluate your options and determine where you’ll gain value from your software. If you’re already tired of having to use multiple pieces of software and create workarounds, an integrated, specialist software solution is likely to work best for you.

Find out which retail software package is right for your business – and give us a call to learn more about Integrity Software’s Trader system.  

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