Builders’ merchants

Outline of Job

Builders’ merchants work in the retail construction sector, selling building and DIY items to those in the building trade and members of the public. Typical items they sell include garden and house tools, bricks, safety gear and decorating items. A builders’ merchant will be involved with everything, from the processing of orders to the loading and unloading of deliveries. With enough experience a builders’ merchant can be promoted to the role of team leader, which would require them to manage a team and deal with stock orders. To find available positions check with your local job centre and newspapers, and also recruitment agencies.

Daily Activities

  • Answering questions concerning items from customers
  • Loading and unloading deliveries
  • Handling orders and payments
  • Lifting heavy items or using a forklift
  • Using your knowledge to advise customers on correct DIY tools
  • Working with a team of builders’ merchants
  • Answering to a team leader
  • Dealing with the general public and members of the builders trade
  • Measuring items

Skills Required

  • Knowledge of building and DIY items
  • Understanding of health and safety regulations
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Friendly manner
  • Good level of physical health
  • Good written skills
  • Mathematics skills
  • Organised approach
  • Good work ethic

Expected Earnings & Conditions

Typical starting salary is around £10,000 a year, with those moving up to the roles of yard staff or team leader able to earn £12,000 - £16,000. Working as a sales worker could see you earning in the region of £18,000. Salaries are dependent on the organisation, with over-time often available, and possibly offering a higher rate during bank holidays and weekends. Shift work is often available, with bonuses generally available to those who meet and surpass sales targets.

Typical working hours are eight to five, but this will depend on the organisation, and also, whether you work full or part-time. Work will involve lifting heavy items and the use of heavy machinery. You will need to advise customers on purchases, and spend time between in-store and yard activities. Safety equipment such as footwear should be provided by your employer, and you will need to be of good physical fitness.

Qualifications & Experience Required

It is not required that you have formal qualifications to become a builders’ merchant, but some employers may want you to have some GCSEs graded A - C, particularly in subjects such as mathematics. The Apprenticeships Scheme currently being run in the UK is a good way to get a job as a builders’ merchant, offering the chance to acquire real work experience in a related role. However, the availability of positions will vary according to different areas.

There is also information about apprenticeships available on the BMF (Builders Merchants Federation) website. Experience in the construction sector can be advantageous but is not essential. The best way to get experience is to send speculative applications to employers. A forklift truck or LGV licence would be needed to operate heavy machinery. You need to be at least sixteen to operate a forklift, but many employers prefer employees to be eighteen because of insurance issues.

Additional Training & Development

A builders’ merchant would at first be trained on the job, learning by doing and from other more experienced colleagues. If a builders’ merchant shows good work ethic and aptitude for the role they will have the opportunity to move up to the role of team leader or yard staff. It is also possible to work as a customer services assistant. If enough experience is acquired and you have a good standing management level is achievable.

Training is typically offered on the job but you can also work towards numerous NVQs. This can be done in your spare time while working on the job. Related courses on offer include sales, customer service, retail and warehousing. These courses will be supported by the BMF, who also offer short courses of their own in areas such as sales and forklift procedure.