Interview with a timber merchant: Tomlinson Parbans
This week, we sat down with Pete Lamb, managing director of Tomlinson Parbans - a Stockport-based timber merchant to discuss the state of the market and what it's been like to be a long-term customer of International Timber.
Who are your main customers?
We service the local trades - mostly. A few small ones and a lot of joiners tradesmen doing general jobs and small extensions to large extensions.
How did the market fare during the recession and have things improved since the economic upturn?
Well, during the downturn it was very hard work. People just wanted the goods for the cheapest price and that had a knock-on effect for the whole trade. We've all been working for much lower margins for the last few years.
Coming out of that situation now, things are looking a lot more promising, we're starting to be able to get our margins and people are more interested in getting the quality and the goods on time, rather than just having the cheapest option every time.
Have any new technologies come to the fore recently?
The main thing in that is probably the constant improvement in power tools - battery life and that sort of thing. However, we've come out of that market because everybody's buying online.
The other improvements we've made in our workshop is buying new machinery to produce our joinery more efficiently.
Has the growth of e-commerce negatively impacted you?
In some lines yes. People can come in and get their hands on and look at the machines and power tools then they go away and source it cheaper online they're getting exactly the same product and for a generally cheaper price because we obviously have more overheads.
Do you see this trend continuing?
Unfortunately yes, it is, but fortunately it doesn’t apply to a lot of our products. Most of our items are not package-able, or transportable very easily and we still have a lot of consumables that people need there and then.
What's it like being a long-term customer of International Timber?
It's been comforting to be honest to have a company of their size and stature working alongside us. They have been very helpful and they've been very interested in our business. Frequent visits from management, making sure that everything's running smoothly for us and with development on new products - they've been a delight to work with really.
How does the relationship work in practice?
We have office contacts that we deal with on a regular basis that I've known for several years - I'm on very familiar terms with them. Representation visits do change - things move on as with every business, you get to know a rep and then they'll bring another person in but they seem to get high-calibre staff who know the game and know what they're doing so it does make it relatively easy to build relationships.
They come to us with the right attitude. They know we're a regular customer and have been for a long, long time and they come straight in and know they need to give us the best service available and that's generally what we get.
Many thanks to Pete for his great insights into the industry. If you want to learn more, or check out Tomlinson Parbans great range of products and services - be sure to check out their website.
And if you're looking for quality timber to use in building projects, or larger-scale jobs don't hesitate to get in touch with us today.