Setting the Standard for Supplying Merchants

After a difficult first quarter due to extreme weather, the market recovered some of its zip in April and May. But we’re not short of challenges, whether from inflation or the ongoing skills shortage, as highlighted in IKO’s comment in the first quarter’s Builders Merchant Building Index (BMBI) report.

There are opportunities for merchants too. Having the right product portfolio and offering added value solutions is essential. A comprehensive range means merchants can adapt to skills, type of project and weather, offering builders and contractors everything they need to complete a job.

With over 100 years of working with merchants in the UK, we aim to offer everything merchants need for roofing and waterproofing projects, backed up with training and practical support on selling. We have a product for every project: flat or pitched, torch-on or cold applied, premium or commodity, commercial, new build or refurbishment. This includes built-up flat roofing systems, PIR insulation boards, pitched roof systems, waterproofing liquids and compounds, and roofing shingles.

We’re seeing more demand for products such as IKOslate, a composite roof tile manufactured from mineral-reinforced, 99% recycled and re-engineered materials. Its unique structure gives it superior strength and makes it easier to handle and install. It’s ideal for contractors and roofers looking for a quick and easy installation with durability and great looks.

Added-value options are doing well too, such as the IKOpro liquids range, which includes primers, adhesives and a wide choice of repair and waterproofing coatings and protective paints. With products for waterproofing and protecting roofs, floors, paving and patios, the range is designed to increase add-on sales and revenue for merchants.

Products that offer an alternative to traditional torch-on roofing are becoming increasingly popular. For example, our self-adhesive IKO Easyseal system. This was launched last year and consists of five high-performance membranes that can be applied to small roofs on garages, porches and extensions as well as on larger commercial projects. Each membrane includes an adhesive coating on the underside, protected by a quick-release film. The system is used with IKOpro Self-Adhesive Bitumen Primer, applied to the substrate. It eliminates the need for hot bitumen or gas torches, making the range an ideal option for both experienced contractors and competent DIY installers. There’s no compromise on performance either: the system is tough and durable, with up to a 20-year guarantee.

The IKO Easyseal VCL and Universal Underlay have an additional benefit: they can also be used with torch-on roofing systems, isolating combustible substrates to reduce the risk of fire when using a gas torch, providing further options for contractors.

Richard Evans, Branch Manager for Bence Roofing Supplies in Cheltenham, George Bence Group’s roofing branch, says about a recent trade day we ran to showcase the latest additions to IKO Easyseal: “The demo day went down really well. All the options in the IKO Easyseal range were demonstrated. Almost everyone said it seemed easy and quick to apply, and clean to handle. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive, with comments that it would save a lot of time on site, and therefore money on labour. Personally, I haven’t seen much on the market that compares.”

Bence Roofing Supplies is one of four branches of George Bence Group, a long-established, family-run independent, serving Gloucestershire and the surrounding counties. IKO has supplied the company for over 30 years. Managing Director Paul Bence adds: “IKO has helped us expand our product portfolio with products to help us drive additional sales volume. We’ve got what our customers need and want – but it’s also important for suppliers to provide the right training for our internal and external staff in order to stimulate sales, and IKO really has supported us with this.”

Setting the Standard

We make training and support a priority for customers. We work closely with merchants to ensure they have the information they need, with regular visits and demo days. And we ensure our packaging, brochures and online resources include clear and easy to follow instructions. We’ve also invested in the development and training of roofing contractors to encourage consistently high standards, with training centres across the country. Although we aim to make our products as easy to fit as possible, skill and knowledge are integral to ‘right-first-time’ work – and it’s vital to encourage best practice.

To this end, we’re proud to support the NFRC’s Safe2Torch campaign, which seeks to significantly reduce the risk of roof fires when using gas torches, either to dry out roofs or when used to install torch-on membranes. It’s a great initiative which was developed in partnership with NFRC contractor and manufacturer members, including IKO (our Technical Manager Martin Fisher, was closely involved in the process). The campaign has been embraced by the industry and registration to Safe2Torch is set to become mandatory for all NFRC and CompetentRoofer members involved in flat roofing. It’s driving change – and innovation – in the roofing industry.