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Electricfix Article: Reader Feedback

In May's EPA, I covered the launch of Screwfix's new professional-only service, Electricfix, and asked for your views on the issues that have been raised. Email with your views. Here are some of the responses:


I read with interest your feature on “Electrifix”. Coming from a remote part of the country where, for some, mail order is a culture rather than a choice I often face the “Screwfix syndrome”, and often we, as properly established wholesalers, have to pick up the pieces when the unfortunate customer has come up against the brick wall that is mail order. Some, but by no means all, of the problems that they face are issues like goods arrived wrong, goods arrived broken, goods did not arrive at all, goods of poor quality, mail order company refuses to take surplus goods back, mail order company offers no help with any of the foregoing etc etc. And not uncommonly the price, when compared to locally sourced goods, not being just as good as expected.

However your questions were: -

“ Have you got any other ideas on how to improve services on offer to electrical professionals?”

Answer, “YES – shop at a properly established electrical wholesaler” where not only do you get a choice of product at very competitive prices but you get served by a professional whose role is to service your needs and be there to offer advice, if required, gained through years of experience in the trade. The wholesaler can also be the contractor’s link to the manufacturer if the technical questions are outwith the scope of the wholesaler as these two entities generally work in close partnership. Plus instead of waiting for delivery, never next day in this part of the world, you get the goods to take away with you there and then, also if there is a change of plan once the job gets underway you can go back to the wholesaler and return or exchange goods without any problem. Speaking of problems, if one arises, and they sometimes do, you can go back to the wholesaler and speak to them face to face to sort out the issue. If you are the type of contractor who does a lot of repair work you can “book out” several items so that you are sure to be covered when you turn up at the job. Consider the scenario, you are called to repair a light fitting but the person that called you is not too sure what type of lamp it takes, so knowing the building you establish that it is probably a 2D type but you also know that there are 2 pin & 4 pin of different wattages in that installation so your wholesaler books out the range and you return the unused lamps and ballasts later for credit. Everybody ends up happy as the customer gets the light working, the contractor only made one visit, particularly important if the round trip to site is a couple of hours, and the wholesaler knows that he has helped a valued customer. It could be argued that the contractor should have stock of these items but if you consider all the possibilities for every type of call out that can arise it would involve him carrying a great deal of stock that he may never use. Why should he tie up his own money when the wholesaler can carry it for him?

“Are there still too many ways unscrupulous traders can operate with uncompetitive rates?”

Answer again “YES – they can offer product through mail order catalogues that turns out not to be as expected.” At the established electrical wholesaler operating from a location with proper premises that you can visit and collect your goods from you know where you are and that you have got what you wanted in the first place instead of something that does not quite look like the picture in the catalogue. On top of that wholesalers generally offer a pre agreed discount from the manufacturer’s trade price list unlike some mail order companies that have loss leaders for some popular items and rip the unsuspecting customer off on the not so high profile lines. All too often the “competitive rates” turn out not quite so when the whole package is taken into account.

“What do you look for from a wholesaler?”

Firstly he must be a wholesaler, not a mail order retailer masquerading as a wholesaler, he must have a range of stock that suits me or be flexible enough to take different manufacturers lines into his stock if I have a preference for something that he does not currently stock. He must be able to deliver TODAY to site on the occasions that I have an urgent need. He must be professional and knowledgeable about the products that he sells and be able to react to technical queries that arise even if this is only to liaise with the manufacturer on my behalf. He must be able to react outwith normal business hours and be flexible enough to service my business according to the patterns that it dictates. I expect to be able to collect a few lengths of conduit, trunking, tray and cut lengths of armour cable when required, I expect that I will get to know him and he will get to know me and we can have a good business relationship where we can work together like partners working to the same end. Most importantly I expect that he will be there when I need him and I know that if I use mail order companies in a futile attempt to save a few quid, that when I really need the wholesaler he will have gone, as he is likely to look to something else to invest in rather than hang around for the few bits that I cannot get mail order. Everyone is aware of the present financial crisis but looking around the country there are plenty of remote areas with particularly fragile local economies and if we do not support the businesses in these areas the local economy will decline to a level that is no longer viable to operate in and their doors will close. The knock on effects of that scenario will be catastrophic as these are the very businesses that are the source of our current work load and so the downward spiral is exacerbated and we need to widen our trading area which will no doubt encroach on someone else’s which leads to a price war meaning we are working further away for less money and before we know it our business is not viable any more. I could go on all day extolling the virtues of the wholesaler and the advantages over mail order but I think you will get my message from the above.

You might be saying this is just a rant from a disgruntled wholesaler, but, although I have spent many years in that side of the industry, I have also spent many as a contractor so having experienced life on both sides I feel that I have the best qualifications to pass comment.

In conclusion my advice to any contractor would be to find a proper wholesaler that you feel comfortable to deal with and get close to him in a business sense. I can assure you that they will be more than delighted to foster such a relationship and see it grow and prosper together. Wholesalers are there, obviously, as profitable businesses, but the easiest way that they can achieve that profitability is to have customers that are happy to deal with them and that means keeping you happy in all facets of the relationship. Gone are the days when the customer was an interruption to the working day, service is king in our industry and the best service can be found in a properly established wholesaler’s premises.


Dave Kinnaird (manager)
Edmundson Electrical Ltd



I read with interest your recent article on Electricfix and was pleased to note that they vet their customers to ensure that they are bona-fide tradesmen or businesses.

My biggest grouse over the years has been about the way that the Sheds, (Homebase, Wickes, B&Q) etc. are allowed to sell installation materials direct to the public, even though their prices are far from cheap generally.

More than this, however, is the apparent growing number of so-called "wholesalers" who now openly sell to the general public, supplying them with goods at trade prices. Whilst I appreciate that genuine account holders will receive good discounts on trade prices, it does nothing to prevent casual householders from buying a few metres of cable and wiring in the point for their new 10KW shower. Not only can this be a very dangerous practice but it is also taking work away from genuine tradesmen.

I run accounts with several suppliers, but if I find that they behave in this way they get no more of my business.

My question for you is this; Is there no legislation in place to prevent them doing this?

I will be interested in hearing your comments on my observations.

Kind regards,

Alan G Brooke

Ed - As far as I'm aware there is nothing to stop electrical wholesalers supplying goods to the general public. In fact you will find many promote their services as supplying both to professionals and the public alike.



I have just read your article in epa May 2009 regarding the new electrifix service and felt compelled to email you about unqualified traders etc.

In my view all electrical wholesalers and retailers should only be allowed to sell certain items to tradesmen with a current trade card.

Part P was supposed to stop the cowboys but it has not worked and just put a higher workload on traders who are already legitimate.How can it work when anyone can go into their local B&Q etc. and purchase consumer units,cables and electric showers. I know that Part P does not mean that DIYers cannot do these jobs but that they must notify their local authority but in reality how often does that happen. I would love to know how many notifications have been sent to local authorities from homeowners and non registered workers.As most of us in the trade know this work is often the worst you come across and you tend to come across it on a regular basis.The lady who runs the local electrical shop in the town where I live and work says that her sales have risen since the introduction of Part P and she often tells me that her customers "haven't got a clue" and ask her what size cable they need etc.

Part P will never work properly the same way as Corgi has failed until certain electrical goods are restricted to members of the public. How can it be right that anyone can walk into their local DIY chain and buy a replacement gas valve for their boiler. Corgi has been around a lot longer but there are still large numbers of unregistered plumbers.

To me the only way forward is for stricter regulation on sales.

Vaughan Bowden
(John Bowden & son)
Electrical contractor

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