Good working relationship with wholesaler is vital say contractors

May 7, 2019
And the survey says

A good working relationship came out top of a recent ECA survey into what contractors rate as most important when choosing a wholesaler.

Steve Bratt, Group CEO of the ECA shared the results of its latest research into the contractor- wholesaler relationship during his speech at the EDA Annual Awards Dinner 2019.

This article first appeared in Taking Stock, April 2019, which you can read in full on our website.

The survey responses included contractors from all regions of England and Wales. It also covered a wide variety of contractor sizes, from the very small to the largest national companies.

Contractors were asked to indicate how important a list of 13 features were to them, with responders ranking each feature on a scale from Not important (1) to Extremely important (5).

What contractors want from their wholesaler

The ECA asked contractors to rank 13 features in order of priority and these are the results:

  1. Quality of working relationship
  2. Timeliness of site delivery
  3. Price competitiveness
  4. Completeness of site delivery service
  5. Availability/flexibility of credit terms
  6. Opening hours
  7. Range of products across electro-technical areas
  8. Quality of trade counter service
  9. Quality of technical advice
  10. Ability to collect from own lock-up outside of working hours
  11. Availability of product training
  12. Availability of online ordering facility
  13. Loyalty reward schemes

Chart explaining the top 13 most important factors when dealing with wholesalers

To establish a priority order, the features were ranked prioritising those that scored the highest with 4 and 5 combined. Also, contractors were given the opportunity to add further views. Although more sophisticated analysis is needed to truly understand this – by company size or by age profile for instance – there is still some value in a high-level interpretation.

Like, trust, and reliability

First, it is clear that what contractors see as most important is to have a strong and constructive working relationship with a partner wholesaler. One of the survey responder said:

“The wholesaling industry is about relationships – generally there is not a lot of difference in price, so it is about working with people you like and trust.”

Second was the timeliness of delivery, coupled with the completeness of delivery, which was joint third. The following comment summarises contractor sentiment well:

“Cheaper prices don’t get the work – it’s all about being reliable.”

The point being made is that clients want reliability and contractors rely on deliveries to meet customers’ expectations – as well as to hit target margins of course.

The comments revealed a lot of dissatisfaction in this area, with multiple views about the causes and potential solutions. However, although it is an area of potential under performance, it is useful to know that improvements in this area will be positively received by contractors and for those that are strong in this area, it offers a source of positive differentiation.

Also joint third, unsurprisingly, was price competitiveness, coupled with the availability/flexibility of credit terms. This could be summarised as representing value and suggests that this is just a ‘hygiene factor’ and as long as it looks reasonable, it will be the items above that cement the partnership.

What will contractors want in 5 years’ time?

The second part of the survey looked at what contractors will want in five years’ time. Unsurprisingly, the factors above were still important, with reliability of delivery becoming a little stronger.

The new areas, however, were related to the use of technology in procurement.

Contractors were asked if they would be interested in the availability of digitised/integrated invoicing to eliminate manual processing and 72 per cent of those responding indicated that they would. Also, there were a number of comments about the use of technology for procurement, including a suggestion that online catalogues should be integrated with estimating packages to enable estimates to have access to up-to-date prices.

Add to this the fact that online transactions in the UK are a fraction of the average in continental Europe and the direction of travel is obvious.


On the broader point of collaboration between the wholesaling and contracting parts of our supply chain, this ECA research provides valuable insight into this essential relationship. The Rotherwick House industry hub is now home to representatives from the three-step supply chain, an excellent example of how working together adds value:

  1. Manufacturers represented by BEAMA and GAMBICA
  2. Wholesalers represented by the EDA
  3. Contractors represented by the ECA and BESA