JEWSON Live at the NEC offered HA Magazine the chance to meet up with the merchant chain's Sector Director for social housing, Ken Burrows.
Irrespective of the fact when RSLs need, for instance, to turn around void properties in rapid time, that Jewson can offer them kitchens or bathrooms from any of the UK’s major manufacturers, it would be highly inaccurate to describe the company's offer to the sector as “off-the-shelf”.
Ken Burrows has been Jewson's Sector Director covering social housing for the past three years, and has seen his team both grow the business as well as retain existing clients like Golden Gates and Charnwood Housing.
I had the chance to speak to him during a packed one-day event at the NEC in mid-December, where he explained the scope of the group’s engagement and support for providers across the country.
"Over the past three years we have grown our customer base and our turnover,” Ken recounted, “both renewing existing business which is satisfying, and won some very significant contracts: such as for Bristol City Council where we were able to employ our cross-brand strength with Jewson and Graham. The latter being very strong in plumbing and heating – effectively giving the customer a one-stop shop for all their needs."
"One aspect of these relationships which apples whether it is a small housing provider or a very large one - you have to work in true partnership. If you don’t both engage in a proper partnership you will not deliver the benefits that are possible. Due to their reduced income, providers are constantly looking for added value and better efficiencies – and the only way you can deliver those, generally, is through cooperation."
Due to the size of the sector and its very varied demands, Ken Burrows heads up a technical sales team of 20, able to assess providers’ operations, recommend the right services, and provide continuous support. Amongst the parameters Jewson will look at prior to tender are geographic area, turnover, existing materials purchases and the sophistication of their IT systems.
Ken continued: "Our offer can be tailored to suit what’s best for a particular customer – whether that’s using our branch network, a single branch or opening a dedicated facility. They might be seeking to improve their first time fix rate as a key driver: where we might provide van stock management, or open a dedicated store: our response is very flexible and the model will be based on what the customer wants to do and how they want to achieve it."
"As responsive repairs often happen outside of working hours, we wanted to work with an organisation which could provide us with quality expertise on materials, while ensuring the availability of our core repairs products as and when we need them. Jewson has two local branches in Loughborough, both of which are a short drive away from our offices, meaning that we can get the materials we need to respond to residents’ issues quickly and efficiently." - Andy Brown, Principal Officer of Repairs and Maintenance at Charnwood Borough Council
“The combined reach of both merchants was a key factor in our decision to award the contract, to meet the needs of a mobile workforce managed by an electronic appointments system.” - Andrew Gilborson, Project Manager, Housing Delivery at Bristol City Council.
Reflecting on the wider objectives of such partnerships, Ken concluded: “Jewson has a very strong ethos of corporate social responsibility, and as a large organization we can offer such support as training and apprenticeships. A big part of adding value is about product innovation and we will link to manufacturers, arranging ‘toolbox talks’ to introduce new lines and to assist with their correct application.
"You have to have substance behind you to deal with a constantly changing market, and as my team is primarily focused on RMI work, we are seeing the pressures coming in because of funding. Ultimately, when looking at a provider’s in-house maintenance, my prime measurement is tenant satisfaction – you have to keep it at the forefront of your mind and help them constantly improve that KPI - then you are a valuable partner."