The average tradesman spends a significant portion of every job in their van, going to the merchant in search of supplies – sometimes as much as 30 per cent of a buildera’s working day.
Buildiro was built and tested by builders and will be available in the Google Play and Apple App stores. It finds building supplies near any job site, and will eventually give builders real-time access to merchants’ inventories.
“We created Buildiro to reduce the time that builders spend searching for supplies, and to help smaller, offline merchants get online,” said Buildiro founder and CEO Luke Polach. “Many of the smaller building-supply stores in London – as elsewhere – don’t have an online shop, and contractors cannot see what these sellers offer without visiting. Buildiro was designed to give local merchants better online visibility, and in the process, improve the efficiency of independent contractors.”
For any builder, three factors affect the materials supply chain: availability, distance from the job site, and price. Large contractors often have teams to navigate the supply hurdles, but most small and medium-sized firms do not. That’s where Buildiro aims to help. Using the app, an independent tradesman can create a list of needed supplies and search for the closest merchant stocking all of the items.
Buildiro is targeting a large but very fragmented market, much of it focused on small-scale extension, refurbishment, repair and maintenance activities. This comprises about a third of all UK construction orders – worth around £53bn in 2017).
Out of around 5.5 million small businesses employing under 50 people in the UK, almost a fifth – just over a million – are construction businesses, collectively turning over around £185bn a year. But within this figure there is also a high level of self-employment. Out of 2.4 million UK construction industry workers well over a third – 37% (or nearly 900,000) are self-employed, compared to the average for the whole economy of 13%.
While many of these individuals will be working for specialist subcontractors on a wide range of new build, commercial, industrial and infrastructure projects, the domestic home improvement and alteration market across Britain (excluding Northern Ireland) is worth around £30bn (see this Barbour overview), and Buildiro’s initial focus – Greater London – is the biggest single regional market in terms of value, at around £7.5bn.
So, the market opportunity is huge, but the sector’s fragmentation makes marketing a new mobile application a huge challenge. Multiple trade associations cover both general builders and the myriad of different specialist trades, but none have saturation coverage, so marketing partnerships will only reach a fraction of the potential builder market. Buildiro has recruited someone to onboard builders’ merchants to the platform, so perhaps outlet ‘point of sale’ promotion of the app will work alongside Buildiro’s Facebook activities and a Google Adwords campaign it is running.
The first version has been already launched and now we are looking forward to introduce the version 2., which will be providing e-invoicing automated system which will help with Making Tax Digital, then the other big future will be a click&collect system which most of the merchants will welcome.
Coupons aren’t the most rugged tool in a pro builder’s toolbox, but for anyone with jobs south of London, they might be the smartest. Earlier this month, Buildiro teamed up with JMD Building & DIY Supplies, a family-run supplier in Hailsham, England, to offer all Buildiro customers 5% off their bill. It’s our first discount deal with a UK-based merchant; it will not be our last.
Professional builders, on the other hand, typically avoid small merchants. Many independently-run stores don’t maintain updated inventories online, and when time is money, tradespeople are instinctively drawn to bigger, often pricier alternatives, assuming larger retailers are more likely to stock what they are looking for.
It has been a busy two months here at Buildiro, and we wanted to take a few minutes to update our community on what we have been up to. Since the app launched on 2 March, interest from tradespeople and merchants has been incredibly high; we’ve counted more than 400 downloads via Google Play and the Apple App store, and our contact form has been lit up with requests from merchants and potential investors. Some of these conversations are inching toward official collaborations; more on that front soon.