Toolstation celebrates 400th branch opening in Balham with launch event

THIS month, British retailer Toolstation is celebrating a significant milestone – opening its 400th branch on the Zennor Road Trade Park in Balham.

Part of the Travis Perkins plc Group, Toolstation supplies tools, accessories and building supplies to the trade nationwide. The launch event is on Friday, 24 January, from 11am to 2pm.

The 400th branch opening is a significant milestone for the business and follows a period of sustained growth that is set to continue into 2020. The business has enjoyed 10 consecutive quarters of double-digit growth. Most recently, Q3 trading results showed growth of 21.3% and 15.4% on a like-for-like basis.

On the day, the team from the popular On the Tools social media platform will be in attendance. They will be checking out products, interviewing staff and live streaming the event to their audience of 3.5m from 12.15pm. They will be running a variety of games giving customers a chance to win power tools, pressure washers and a lawn mower.

Rugby fans will be able to try their luck at the Toolstation rugby kick and pass challenge, to be in with a chance of winning a Dewalt Combi drill.

Trade brands Trend and Everbuild will be in attendance showcasing their products and will be on hand to talk to customers.

The first 400 customers can pick up a free Greggs sausage roll and soft drink in-branch or available for collection from the near-by Greggs bakery. Free hot drinks are also available at the Balham Toolstation branch.

To celebrate, there will be a 10% discount off everything in-store, from Thursday, 23 January to Sunday, 26 January.

At 12.30pm on Friday, Toolstation Managing Director James MacKenzie and Marketing Director John Meaden will be cutting a ribbon to celebrate the 400th store opening, as well cutting a celebratory cake with customers and staff.

The Balham branch is the 400th nationwide and the 64th in London. The Balham branch employs seven people permanently. The ambition is to double the number of stores in the capital in the coming years. In 2019, Toolstation opened 67 new branches nationally, creating 800 new jobs. In London, nine new branches opened and 67 jobs were created last year. This growth shows no sign of slowing down with a similar number of new branches planned this year.

James MacKenzie, Managing Director, commented: “Toolstation is one of the fastest growing retailers in the UK. As well as having market leading products at great prices, we make it easy for our busy trade customers to buy online and pick up from store. The 400th Store in Balham has free parking and complements the other 63 stores in London, which means a Toolstation is never far away.”

Wilko to support National Home Improvement Month 2020

HOME and garden retailer, wilko, which has 417 stores across the UK, is to support National Home Improvement Month, BHETA’s industry-wide consumer-facing marketing initiative, now in its third year.

It will be the first multiple retailer to sign up to the campaign which will run throughout April. Wilko’s involvement follows on from a successful Meet the Buyer event held by BHETA back in November 2019.

Keeley Vernon, BHETA’s sector manager for DIY & Home Improvement who is driving the campaign commented: “It is fantastic to have wilko, a major retailer on board for 2020. Its engagement provides a great opportunity within our industry not only for the wilko brand, but also for BHETA’s supplier members and for the consumer; and will elevate the campaign to new level. Everyone at BHETA is very much looking forward to working with wilko on this new opportunity; and raising the profile of National Home Improvement Month!”

As in previous years, National Home Improvement Month is all about inspiring and enabling consumers to get back into home improvement, make more of their garden and outdoor space, or have fun with new-style DIY, craft, and upcycling. The month-long initiative is intended to make the most of the key sales period over Easter for home improvement tools and consumables.

National Home Improvement Month uses the tagline ‘Love The Home You Live In’. Online and broadcast features will be backed through social media and in national and regional consumer media. A package of point of sale and support material will again be available.

As a BHETA sponsored initiative, suppliers and distributors wanting to get involved need to be, or become, members of BHETA to participate. Any supplier, distributor or retailer who would like more information about the campaign should contact BHETA’s home improvement sector manager, Keeley Vernon at BHETA on 0121 237 1130 or email  [email protected].

Back small house builders to improve the design of new homes, says FMB

REMOVING barriers to small house builders will deliver better quality homes and happier people, according to the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) in response to a national design audit conducted by UCL for CPRE, the countryside charity, and the Place Alliance, published yesterday.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: "Today’s report shows the impacts of 30 years of market consolidation, which has squeezed out the small builder.

"SME house builders have to compete on quality rather than volume, so it is hardly surprising that a broken housing market dominated by a handful of major developers is failing to deliver what homeowners want and need.
"To get SME builders back into the housing market we need to tackle the barriers of land supply, access to finance and a simpler planning system. Greater diversity in our housing market will not only help deliver better quality homes, but happier people as recent FMB research shows that homeowners are twice as likely to be ‘very satisfied’ with the quality of their new build home if it is built by a small builder than one of the top 20 firms."

Take control with the new KNIPEX Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’

THE KNIPEX 00 11 06 Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’ is designed to work across a range of utility and control cabinets, fitting locks made by different manufacturers.

This new product from KNIPEX is a universal swivel head wrench. It has four different rotatable closing heads and three closing heads with a double function. There are three profile types available: outside square (5-8mm capacity), triangle (7-9mm capacity) and double bit (circle with fins – 3-5mm capacity).

The tool contains strong magnets allowing it to open and close easily – and stay firmly in place. It can be opened fully to 180 degrees or held at 90 degrees giving it an easy-to-use handle. When folded back together, the key measures just 62mm. Weighing in at just over 100g it can be carried easily in a pocket.

With a varnished plastic body and zinc die-cast profiles, the KNIPEX 00 11 06 Control Cabinet Key ‘Double Joint’ makes it easy to access control panels, shut off valves and more.

ToolKit launches rolling prize draw with a JCB combi drill set

AS part of the relaunch from ToolBUSINESS+HIRE, ToolKit is proud to run a series of prize draws throughout 2020, giving every digital reader the chance to win the latest cutting-edge tools and kit completely FREE.

In each of the 10 publication months, we will offer a new prize and select a winner from all ToolKit digital subscibers.

The prize for the January draw is the 18V Brush;ess Combi Drill Set from JCB Tools.

This set includes:

  • A JCB 18V Brushless Combi Drill
  • 2 x 5.0 Ah batteries
  • L-Boxx

This innovative piece of kit comes comlpete with a brushless motor, a 2-speed gearbox and an LED light, giving you drilling, screwdriver and hammer action whenever you need them most.


All subscribers to the digital ToolKit magazine are automatically entered. Each month they get the digital version of ToolKit magazine sent straight to their inbox as well as free entre into the draw.

You can subscribe to receive the digital version of ToolKit HERE.

The closing date for the January draw is 19 January.

ONS construction output data a ray of hope for the industry?

THE ONS today published UK construction output data suggesting that December's clear election result, adding more certainty to Brexit, may be helping the industry to turn a corner.

Gareth Belsham, director of the national property consultancy and surveyors Naismiths, commented: “Fragile confidence, weak demand and contractors running out of orders – it’s all there. Rising output in infrastructure and commercial construction was tempered by a contraction in private sector housebuilding.

“Yet the month-on-month increase, which jumped to 1.9% – the highest level since January 2019 – gives a hint of the rebound that has followed the election. Such a clear election result and an end – for now – to Brexit uncertainty have helped the industry to reset. The return of clarity, if not yet unbridled confidence, is prompting many developers who spent 2019 sitting on their hands to pull the trigger in 2020.

“The industry is far from back to health, but in the space of less than a month, its newfound sense of purpose is starting to make these November figures seem very distant. The questions now will be how long the Boris bounce can sustain, and whether the capacity-cutting of last year will hamper contractors’ ability to cope with a rise in demand.”

Meanwhile, The Federation of Master Builders (FMB) said that the Chancellor must use the upcoming Budget to slash the rate of VAT on repair and maintenance work and to invest in the construction sector in order to maintain the industry’s recovery.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “While 2019 was a year marked by political and economic uncertainty, there does seem to be some small signs of hope for the construction industry, with the largest monthly growth in the industry seen in November since the start of the year. It is too soon to tell whether this will be a longer term trend, as some sectors such as private house building and repair and maintenance continue to see sluggish growth.”

“The upcoming Budget provides the perfect opportunity for the Government to help ensure this positive trend at the end of 2019 continues into the new decade. In order to help boost the industry, the Chancellor should prioritise cutting VAT on home improvement works, so that tax isn’t a barrier to homeowners upgrading the energy efficiency of their properties. The Government should also use the Budget as an opportunity invest in construction skills to help build the homes and infrastructure we need, and invest in planning departments to ensure the planning system doesn’t act as a blockage to the Government’s ambitious housing targets.”

Hitachi adopts new CESAR ECV initiative

HITACHI Construction Machinery (UK) has confirmed that from January 2020, every mini, medium and large excavator, wheeled loader and wheeled excavator will be fitted with the CESAR Security System powered by Datatag technologies as standard.

The Construction Equipment Association (CEA) officially launched the new CESAR Emissions Compliance Verification (ECV) at Plantworx in June 2019. CESAR ECV is an invaluable ‘bolt-on’ product that compliments the existing CESAR Security System and allows quick and easy verification of a machines emissions category.

The initiative developed in response to the demand for an easy and reliable way to confirm the emissions category of construction equipment has been well received by the industry, including Hitachi who will adopt CESAR ECV as well as the standard CESAR Security System.

This feature, using evident colour coded labels with a unique alpha/numeric code is linked securely to a machine’s unique CESAR identity and ensures complete integrity of the system.

David Roberts, CEO of Hitachi Construction Machinery (UK) said, “Helping our customers to protect and optimise their Hitachi machines is an increasingly important element of our value proposition, and in conjunction with our online Global e-Service telematics system which has GPS location capability, the addition of CESAR gives our customers even more peace of mind. CESAR is not only a proven theft deterrent, it also provides an accurate and efficient proof of identity to the Police when they need to trace stolen machines, which has been an industry-wide issue for years. Our customers also require a quick and easy way to identify which stage of the EU emission regulations their machines comply with, as more sites control and monitor their carbon footprint. The addition of the Emissions Compliance Verification or ECV to the CESAR program gives our machines a visible and traceable identity in regard to which emission stage they comply with.”

Stephen Creaser, Director of Product Support at Hitachi Construction Machinery (UK) commented, “Having taken the decision to security mark all new machines with the CESAR security system, we also want to offer the same peace of mind to our existing customers. From early 2020 the CESAR security system will be available to existing customers as an aftermarket retrofit kit that can be installed at the customers premises or job site by a fully trained Hitachi engineer.”

Rob Oliver, Chief Executive of the CEA said, “The Emissions Compliance Verification (ECV) application for CESAR is the single biggest development since the scheme was launched as an anti-theft device initiative in 2007. Today there is an urgent demand for quick identification of the certified emission levels of machines and in developing ECV we have had some great input from the industry as well as HS2, the Energy Savings Trust and London boroughs. The ECV’s easy to see and scan visual label reduces the workload for construction site managers and local authorities alike.”

The construction industry is looking increasingly on its’ environmental impacts and as such CESAR ECV will be invaluable to companies required to manage large scale projects and multiple contractors ensuring plant on site is as environmentally efficient as possible.

Andy Huddleston, Superintendent of Northumbria Police said, “As the national Police lead for Agricultural Machinery theft I am delighted that Hitachi CMUK, one of the industry’s leading companies, has chosen to security mark all their new machines sold in the UK. We know that by doing this the chance of recovering these high-value machines is higher and makes life harder for criminals. We hope that all manufacturers will adopt this approach.”

If we have the weather, Snickers has the clothing

OVER the last few weeks, wherever we are in the UK, we have been battered by weather - from flooding rain to icy frosts. It is exactly these that make us think twice about what we need to wear to survive a day on the jobsite, without succumbing to the wet or cold.

When a parcel from Snickers arrived, I was keen to see what the latest gear could do to prevent my suffering from the usual complaints of cold hands and wet feet.

Onyx Low Work Shoes and High Heavy Wool Socks

My experience of Solid Gear footwear is very positive because the work shoes I have used have proved to be lightweight, strong and warm. The trainer-style Onyx Low work shoes I tested are metal free, with a rubber outsole. This sole has lots of grippy chevrons but the patterns are not so deep that they will pick up loads of mud and distribute it around the jobsite.

The poured PU midsole is lightweight and durable – and dare I say it – ranks amongst the most comfortable I have ever had the pleasure of plunging my feet into. These shoes fitted so well that they felt comfortable immediately, and after half an hour I couldn’t notice the difference between them and my next most comfortable pair of work shoes. 

But the best feature by far, in my opinion, is the use of the BOA system. I am told it is based on a system used in ski boots where a simple twist of the BOA button tightens the laces, and a press on the same button releases them. It is easy to see the advantages because shoe removal is so quick – and there are sometimes jobs where leaving muddy boots at the door is a diplomatic thing to do.

Combine the above with a snug pair of the High Heavy Wool Socks and foot comfort is guaranteed for most users. They are thick and warm, with reinforced heel and toes and are long enough to keep a fair bit of your shins warm too. Again, some of the best socks I have ever used in terms of warmth and comfort, which might be down to the 84% merino wool content!

6241 Allround Work Trousers

I thought I was too old-fashioned for stretch trousers – until I tried them. They do make moving, and especially, bending down a lot easier with much less need to pull them back to waist level when you stand up again. But am I modern enough for them?

The 6251 Allround Work trousers have a classic design with pre-bent legs and a looser fit that people of my vintage might prefer. They are made from hardwearing cordura fabric that has already proved its worth on the jobsite. Of course, you get umpteen pockets (these included holster pockets) as well as a tool holder, front loops and key holder, ruler pocket and a cargo pocket with an attachment for the increasingly common ID badge holder. Let me just say that I have never managed to use all the pockets provided, without feeling that the trousers might fall down any minute.

Snickers is one of the few manufacturers that manages to get knee pad pockets in the right place on the trouser legs so that you can just kneel down without having to hitch the legs. No doubt helped by the use of stretch Cordura at the knees? For most jobs, I find the Snickers kneepads perfectly good and I would only consider extra add–on kneepads if I was on my knees for several days.

The 6241 Allround Work trousers have slimmer legs that would probably appeal to a younger and more fashion-conscious demographic. The blurb says it is for a ‘clean, technical look’, but I will let others with better physiques decide their look…

These trousers too, have a multitude of pockets (including holster pockets) for rulers, ID badge, etc. The slimmer legs may have prompted the designers to move to an Advanced Knee Guard Pro design with pleats that keep the foam knee guards in optimum position for ease of work.

1148 Allround Work Winter Jacket

The hoodie is almost a uniform item on cold winter jobsites because it is just a very practical garment. Some workers even manage to balance a hard hat on top of a hoodie-covered head.

Made from a layer of thick 60% cotton and 40% polyester mix, with a soft, fleecy inside, the new Snickers hoodies are the essence of warmth, even if they are bound to be given a hard life on the jobsite. The length is enough to provide some bottom coverage and the hoodie is big enough to protect the whole head from cold – especially if you pull the elasticated drawstring tight. This one has come to the top of my list of hoodies I reach for on a cold day. The bold Snickers logo and striking colour choices are a bit better than the usual dull grey hoodies often seen onsite.

I am conflicted about the 1148 Allround Work Winter Jacket. Never mind the jobsite, I would wear it as an everyday jacket and it is smart enough to wear when visiting clients. But would I wear it onsite and risk it getting dirty? Perhaps a hi-vis vest over it might minimise any dirt?

On the other hand- this jacket is warm! It has a water-resistant polyester outer and padded lining that keep wind and water out. The neck can be zipped all the way up past the chin and the side pockets are well placed to plunge cold hands into. There are two zipped pockets - one outside and one inside (for your phone? Pens?), as well as a big poacher’s pocket on the left inside. A strong elastic draw cord can be tightened to keep wind out at the bottom and the hook and loop straps on the wrists keep warmth in and wet out.

There are a couple of very subtle reflective strips on the arms because this jacket does not shout its virtues, but it has virtue in spades.

Weather Dry Work Gloves

I have tried hard to find the perfect cold weather work gloves, but the conflicting need for hardwearing materials and flexible dexterity conflict, so inevitably they are always a compromise. The Snickers Weather Dry work gloves are very warm, easy to don and comfortable to wear. But as with the jacket above, I would be unwilling to mess them up by handling wet materials like plaster or mortar.

They are waterproof and protective with reinforced palms and strips of padding to protect the knuckles and when I did a few timber handling jobs with them I was impressed with how good they are. I guess I am going to have to risk them a bit just to keep my hands warm.

Snickers users are always guaranteed well-designed and well-made products and I have never found one bit of Snickers clothing that I thought was inferior. The above certainly fit this mould and I am happy to recommend them.

Hellberg ear defenders: Dare to investigate your noise exposure profile

AS I sit at my desk in a quiet country village in Sussex, the loudest sounds I hear are the rooks fighting over a tidbit. Annoying maybe, but not dangerous. Contrast that to the almost incessant noise that many Londoners are routinely exposed to – for example, I hate that ear-piercing scream from the rails on the Northern Line between Euston and Mornington Crescent where even Londoners block their ears to protect themselves.

The truth is that most background noise is fairly harmless, but once we get regularly exposed to noise levels of around 85dB, we should start to take notice. A modern corded tool, like a circular saw or router, emits noise levels around this mark so it is clear that noise levels need to be considered, even for regular DIY-ers.  

Then think about the workers on construction sites and in factories where the noise levels are persistent and constant as well as occasionally ‘impulsive’ – the technical term for noise that is so loud that it hurts the ears.

Impulsive and persistent noise at levels much greater than 85dB actually cause hearing cells to break off and die making hearing loss permanent. Being ‘hard of hearing’ is now proven to be a serious cause of social isolation and is even being implicated in the onset of Alzheimer’s, due to its isolating effects. There is also an increased risk of high blood pressure, stress, depression, tinnitus and hyperacusis.  

We have known for a long time that exposure to excess noise can cause permanent hearing loss - disco divas, tank crew and artillerymen (to name a few) have all testified to the effects of loud noises on their hearing. What strikes me is that noise has been seen as an occupational hazard and employers have taken a fairly relaxed attitude to it. 

In fact, there is no need for workers to suffer excess noise levels because employers and workers have for years had a responsibility to reduce and control noise levels. Regulations from the HSE and EC say so. And the good thing about excess noise is that it is pretty easy to control it and protect workers from it. It is often as simple as choosing and using a good set of ear defenders whenever the noise levels warrant it.  

However, it turns out that choosing an appropriate set of ear protectors can be more complicated. So... here goes! 

You still want some noise 

It would be no good choosing ear protection that cuts off all noise – just so that you don’t hear the excavator that runs you over. Equally, too low a level of protection won’t stop hearing damage in the long term.  

Also, ear protectors are highly sophisticated these days -  a quick run through the Hellberg range shows a wide range of options from simple to sophisticated. Hellberg’s more sophisticated products allow workers to communicate with each other via radio when needed as well as listening to Classic FM in the in-between times.

Choice can also be complicated by the wearer too. A beard, glasses or long hair can all affect the efficiency of the protectors and for this reason Hellberg recommends that noise level protection to be aimed at is 75dB rather than 85dB. This allows conversation and communication as well as promoting awareness of other hazards like diggers and dumpers nearby.  

To the practical 

Hellberg, now part of the Hultafors Group, sent me a couple of ear protectors to try out. 

The first, the Secure 2H, are colour coded with bright yellow bands around the outside of the ear padding. Yellow coded protectors are designed to protect users from noise levels in the 95 to 110dB range. Think electric grinders, big circular saws and slightly quieter forms of motorsports. 

I often have music in the background while I am working, and after donning the Secure 2H I could still hear it - mostly the quieted lyrics and a few guitar highlights. At a distance of a couple of metres I could still hear instructions addressed to me in a slightly raised voice. Sudden loud noises were still unexpected, but my ears did not ring. Ringing is a sign that indicates possible temporary harm.  

I always expect high quality from European manufacturers and a close examination of these protectors rather proved the point.  

The all-important padding around the ears was soft and thick and therefore able to adjust to the contours of the head. It seemed to be fixed in place securely all around the aperture. This foam is often the first casualty of regular use so it needs to be able to be replaced easily – which indeed it can be. Spares are easily available.

The outer parts are made of a rigid black plastic ‘doughnut’ and they are lined on the inside with around 12mm thickness of dense foam for sound insulation.  

Also designed for a long working life are the headband and yokes holding the ‘doughnuts’ in place. The head band has a foam pad on the top for comfort and adjustment is achieved by simply pulling each side down a few clicks until you get a close fit over the ears.  

The parts exposed to wear and tear, sweat and dirt are all replaceable to ensure a long working life for the protectors.  

To test for comfort, I wore them for a few hours as I was preparing some timber for a table I am making. After a time, they warmed up nicely, even in my cold workshop, and were comfortable and effective – the kind of comfort that would make you use them regularly rather than just hang around your neck for appearances only. 

Still yellow, but more technology

The Hellberg 2H Active are rated for the same levels of noise as the basic ones above, but they incorporated speakers, batteries, a jack plug and lead so that you could plug into a mobile phone, radio or MP3 player (I’m showing my age here).

Once again, I couldn’t fault the comfort of the round-ear padding despite the necessary extra weight of the protectors. Two AA batteries are located in one of the solid plastic earpieces and the jack plug in the other. Adjustment to the head is a matter of a few clicks because there is enough cable from the jack plug to ensure snag-free movement. The speakers are of good quality and music from my iPod sounded good – but I could still hear ambient noises and have a conversation. 

This is a very short excursion into the Hellberg range of ear protection – it is worthwhile going online to see the full range and choose the solution that suits you. Your hearing may depend on it.

Snickers Workwear ProtecWork – increasing protection through layers

THIS fully accredited and independently tested protective wear for heat, flame, electrical arc and chemical risk environments delivers market-leading protection in a wide range of hazardous working conditions.

The key features and benefits of the clothing include the hi-tech, advanced fabric technology integral to the Base-, Mid- and Top-Layer garments for both men and women that combine well with the Snickers Workwear hallmarks of best-in-class durability, comfort, ergonomics and fit.

Increasing your protection

Research carried out by Snickers Workwear in the toughest of working environments has concluded that the best ways to improve your level of protection is to wear layers. The main benefit of this is that the air gap formed between different garments provides increased protection.

ProtecWork clothing is fully accredited to a variety of risk and bad weather working environments and all the garments are manufactured from tailor-made fabrics designed to respond to the demands of the conditions in which they’re worn.

So, with over 60 different garments and accessories to choose from, you can make sure you get the right protection, visibility, flexibility, comfort and durability. Check out the new Snickers Workwear ProtecWork range to fit your workday and wellbeing on site.  

For more information on Snickers Workwear’s ProtecWork Range, call the Hultafors Group UK Helpline on 01484 854788.

Checkout the website and download a digital catalogue at


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