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Customers at the Core

Established in 1991, MGM Timber has grown to become Scotland’s independent timber merchant of choice for both trade and retail customers. Managing director Steve Galbraith, spoke to us about success and sustainability.

With decades of experience in timber and building products, highly knowledgeable staff, and 15 branches across Scotland.

A part of the Donaldson Group since 2005, MGM’s experience and geographical spread has enabled it to provide unrivalled customer service and offer only the highest quality products, value for money and a ‘personal, local service that is second to none’.

“We put customers at the core of everything we do,” says Steve.

“Our people, our integrity, delivering sustainable financial and environmental performance, and embracing the future through our proud family heritage.

“The commitment of our colleagues is what really underpins our success.

“We commit to ongoing training and development, and we know that the knowledge of our long-serving team provides the service that customers value most.”

E-commerce & market forces

With an extensive product range encompassing panel products, softwoods, hardwoods, fencing materials, engineered products, what sets the business apart compared to others supplying similar products?

“While we do operate in a commodity market, our colleagues’ product knowledge is what sets us apart from other businesses selling similar products,” says Steve.

“Many of our colleagues have worked with us for decades and we are constantly upskilling to ensure they are up to date on the newest products and innovations that our customers are looking for.

“While our online presence is growing, the face-to-face element of supporting both our trade and retail customers is key to our success.

“In addition to our colleagues, we also commit to quality.

“We are rigorous in our approach to sourcing and supplying the highest quality products and pricing them competitively so that we can ensure that we offer fair and competitive prices for products that are designed to last.

“And our service supports customers in making informed choices when purchasing, so they are buying the right products for the job.”

This is reflected in repeat business and customer feedback.

As MGM have rolled out its e-commerce offering in recent years – with a Trustpilot score currently 4.9 out of 5 – Steve sees this as recognition that they are providing the offering that trade and retail customers want.

MGM Timber recently won a People in Retail award for its e-commerce approach and having a cutting-edge digital shop front in the timber trade is now essential to the customer experience.

“Having an e-commerce platform is now integral to our business,” says Steve.

“Since 2020, an online presence has become vital to retaining a strong place in the market and reflecting changing shopping behaviours.

“Our e-commerce site now makes up 5% of our sales and we expect this to grow as more of our trade customers look for online solutions.

“Because of this evolution, we’re in the process of expanding our website to include more products and materials.

“We take an omnichannel approach to everything so we will always offer a mix of online and in-person service, but it’s important to innovate and adapt to the changing world.”

Superior product reach

Steve sees being part of the Donaldson Group as bringing a great deal of synergy to the organisation and boosting the reach that MGM Timber has.

“Being a part of the Donaldson Group allows us to leverage the supply chain right across the UK and supports our procurement processes and our aim to secure the best possible market terms.

“We may deal directly with trade and retail, but the benefit of the Group’s network around the country helps us maintain the quality our customers expect.

“The Group’s family business approach is also at the heart of our business and that ethos is one of the reasons that we have long-tenured colleagues who are really dedicated to supporting our customers.

“And because timber is at the core of our product offering, the Donaldson Group’s 163-year history of supplying and advocating for timber provides a legacy and a trust that we have the right knowledge and experience of timber products.

“The timber material supply chain has suffered a tricky last 18 months with the construction slow-down, especially within the residential sector and impact of the cost-of-living, inflation, and energy fluctuations.

“The DIY sector has also seen reduced business.

“As interest rates have made housing affordability challenging, we have seen a slight slowdown and drop in demand across the supply chain,” says Steve.

“But our volumes remain strong within our core business, and we have had an increase in accounts being opened with us.

“Consumer spending has also reduced due to the rising cost of living, so we are experiencing pressure from both sides of our customer base.

However, many of the smaller trades continue to be busy and many of our retail customers are carrying out smaller home renovations and projects.

“We have weathered dips in the market before and we are using this time to prepare for the upturn we expect in 2025.”

Sustainability and the year ahead

With net zero carbon targets in mind – both in the range of products sold and the way facilities are operated – MGM and Donaldson Group are fully committed to creating a ‘positive, responsible future for everyone’ and delivering on its sustainability targets.

“We have made good progress toward our net zero position as a Group and at MGM,” says Steve.

“We are making a variety of changes to play our part in achieving these targets.

“We have a robust supply chain that is PEFC and FSC certified, supporting timber as the most sustainable building resource.

“We have also upgraded our energy efficiency at our branches with more sustainable heating and lighting, and we are rolling out electric forklifts at our sites.

“The Group has a policy encouraging the use of electric vehicles, which is something that we wholeheartedly support across MGM.

“As we make upgrades and improvements across our branches, sustainability is at the forefront of our plans and we are always looking at ways to operate more efficiently.”

Across the merchant sector, fencing and cladding products have always been top-sellers and seem to be real growth product areas within the marketplace.

But what is the market leading timber products for the trade and construction sector and what can we expect from MGM in 2024?

“Fencing and cladding have always been at the top end of our product sales,” says Steve.

“Though both can be very seasonal.

“We are seeing strong growth in e-commerce sales, in particular, along with decking.

“Our sales and products have often been very consistent with even demand for homegrown timber for carcassing, but we are certainly seeing an increase in the supply and demand of composite materials for cladding and fencing.

“We’re also noticing a shift from hardwood to MDF for finishings.

“And in the next couple of years, we expect to see higher demand for UC4 timber preserving treatment to extend the life of outdoor products facing the elements.

“We opened a new branch in St Andrews at the end of 2023, our fifteenth in Scotland.

“We opened this branch following a programme of extensive customer research and it was designed to reflect the insights customers provided.

“Offering an improved in-branch experience, with a focus on lay-out, range optimisation, visual presentation, and in-situ displays, this new format will roll out across all locations in the coming months.

“This supports all customers, including trade, but we aim to make our showrooms more welcoming and customer-friendly for retail, so they have the same opportunity to take advantage of our expertise.

“We are also investing on further improvements to our website to create an even better online and digital experience that will help trade customers plan, estimate, and manage projects.

“Investment is also supporting our kitchen showrooms as we aim to create exciting growth opportunities and drive new audiences to our MGM branches.

“We expect that demand will begin to rise in 2025 so we areusing this year to prepare for that growth and ensure that we have the right products in the right places.

“And crucially, we will continue to invest in our people to maintain our expertise and underline the quality of our customer service.”

More at www.mgmtimber.co.uk

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