Independent builders’ merchants are located in an endless variety of places, from the busiest high streets and bustling town squares to industrial estates and out of town shopping-centres.


Independent builders’ merchants are located in an endless variety of places, from the busiest high streets and bustling town squares to industrial estates and out of town shopping-centres. Many of the stores that fall into the latter category are destination retailers – most customers will head to the outskirts of town specifically to pick up items from their favourite builders’ merchant. While the sky-high rents of the most lucrative high streets might be out of reach of many builders’ merchants, there are plenty of central locations that merchants can call home, particularly in smaller towns and cities. Builders’ merchants lucky enough to operate in the centre of town have access to another type of trade that is rarely taken full advantage of: passing trade.

The importance of passing trade

There are benefits and costs associated with having a high street store. The costs are obvious: higher rent, less space for your money, and perhaps poor parking facilities for customers and staff. In many locations, you could rent out premises several times the size of your current high street store if you looked to the industrial estates. One of the major benefits of your location is the passing trade that you have the potential to attract - but however high footfall is outside your store, you will need to make an effort to draw consumers into your store.

Maximising passing trade

Your business can operate as both a destination store and a magnet to passing customers. As a builders’ merchant, the nature of your store will manage the former, but you’ll have to make an effort to achieve the latter. Here’s how to change your business mind-set and start maximising passing trade:

·         A tidy shop window. Space is short in many high street builders’ merchants, and a window display is tempting to use to display the sheer variety of goods you sell. However, a crowded window makes your shop appear dark and intimidating to passing trade, so clear it out and focus your display on a few items only.

·         Impulse buys. You may be able to do your customers a great deal on bathroom flooring or timber, but these items will hardly draw passing customers into your store. Instead, showcase items that DIY customers frequently need (but tend to forget to stock up on), such as light bulbs and gardening supplies. Place these impulse buys in the window displays and just inside the shop entrance.

·         Advertising. Use your shop window as advertising space – but as we mentioned above, don’t make your messages too cluttered. You should also make use of any outside space for a-boards and other signs. Ensure you aren’t blocking access for wheelchairs and are following local and national advertising law.

·         Partnerships. If there are any other businesses that operate along your street in a related but not directly competitive sector, consider speaking to them about partnership options. This could be as informal as asking for a referral if a customer asks for merchant recommendations, and doing the same in return.

Passing trade will never bring in the majority of revenue for builders’ merchants. Instead, view it as a way of ‘topping up’ income from trade customers and as a source of potential repeat custom.

Whatever your strategy for increasing sales, it’s vital that you track and measure your efforts. Complex retail software is integrated software combining accounts, point of sale and stock management. See what Integrity Software’s Trader retail software has to offer.