Britain’s third largest co-operative has been created following the merger of two building-supply co-operatives.
United Merchants (Unimer) has wound-up its business into the smaller National Merchant Buying Society (NMBS), with effect from 1 February. The combined business will have a turnover in excess of £1bn, with more than 1,000 members and 600 suppliers.
According to Co-operatives UK’s list of the top 100 co-operatives, the merged entity will have a turnover close to £1.5bn, based on the the 2011/2012 financial year. It will be the third largest co-operative behind the Co-operative Group and John Lewis.
“This transaction will enable substantial cost savings to be made within the existing supply chain,” said Unimer chair Leo Martin, who added that it will “enhance the competitive position of both merchants and their suppliers.”
He said: “We are delighted that the NMBS board has worked with us to ensure that this vision has become a reality and the directors of both companies will now work together to advance the interests of the independent merchant.”
Describing the merger as a “quantum leap forward” for the builders merchants sector, NMBS chair Tim Allen commented: “Undoubtedly it will deliver hitherto unseen scale to all stakeholders and it will provide our members with the advantage they need to compete more effectively with their national rivals on a daily basis.”
As part of the arrangements, Unimer independent merchant members will be offered membership of NMBS by way of immediate or deferred terms. Unimer’s managing director Howard Grant will retire from the business, but he will remain to oversee the wind-down of the existing Unimer operation.
Chris Hayward, managing director of NMBS, added: “Together NMBS and Unimer will become a powerhouse for selling into and dealing with the independent merchant sector. It will provide significant additional resources that can be deployed to create real added value for both our members and suppliers.”
As the UK’s largest merchant co-operative, Unimer has been trading since 1935 and had a turnover of more than £900m that supplied over 3,000 outlets. NMBS describes itself as a centralised buying society for builders, timber, hardware, plumbing and heating merchants with more than £680m in buying power across 2,000 branches. At NMBS members gain an average 4% in settlement and rebates.