Operations Matter - Wickes - Travis Perkins

Updated: Aug 18

Here is how badly a business can be organised. Let's say you wanted exterior cement board for a construction project. You are a trade customer at Travis Perkins, for some unknown reason they have discontinued stocking the product (Even though as a professional trade building product supplier, it is a basic standard product) so you find that Wickes has an equivalent product and is part of the same group as Travis Perkins. You look online and it is in stock. You go through the whole online order process only to find out at the very end that it is not in stock.

So, it's in stock and not in stock.

So you call their friendly customer care line.

The 'press number' options don't work correctly, although magically when you press '1' for place an order it does work.

So you tell customer care that you'd care to have some product, and that the website shows that it has product and then doesn't have product.

You're informed that the postcode that you want delivery to, is connected to the local branch and they don't have any stock. Hence, you can't have it delivered, and you can't click and collect there, AND you need to call that local branch to discuss with them when they're to be restocked.

So you call the local branch and they never answer the phone.

The question really is - Why don't Wickes have a central warehouse and distribute product to local branches when it's ordered online? It would appear that local branches are being run as profit centres and losing synergy benefits. Business is more than cost, while they look to reduce costs they consequentially lose sales, business profitability is a function of Margin (Sales-Costs) x Volume.

Given the problem origination started with Travis Perkins I'll talk further about them.

Firstly, why wasn't a basic generic stock item available to be ordered online? and furthermore why was the similar product a 'discontinued line' when in fact its group related company Wickes does stock it? Travis Perkins is supposed to be, and historically was for professional builders / developers.

The second aspect is the configuration of their trucks for delivery. In certain parts of the country they should almost certainly have half truck sizes with a hydraulic arm. In the South West there are many small villages with narrow roads. If you cannot deliver to site then I'll find a smaller supplier who can.

A third aspect is the quality of their merchandise. Often the quality of non branded items is inferior to even Screwfix which is orientated to the home handyperson and is far cheaper. Travis Perkins should look closely at Selco who understand trade builders and who obviously have people closely connected with the trade undertaking procurement. Buying cheap generic product from China and flogging it to Trade Professionals rapidly loses credibility. Nb: Toolstation is part of the same group as Travis Perkins / Wickes yet often their products are better than Travis Perkins which shows they have a different and more able procurement team.

Finally, there are smaller alternatives in building suppliers, and they will continue to gain market share while large suppliers fail to offer effective solutions. Large suppliers should have the advantage of huge product ranges from central warehouses that can cater for every need on a small/medium construction project. This is their source of competitive advantage, yet they are failing to harness it.

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