Outstanding customer service has contributed to an impressive level of growth for all of the firms shortlisted for this award, sponsored by Barbour Index
National winner
Travis Perkins Trading Company

Travis Perkins won this category last year and hasn't spent the past 12 months resting on its laurels. Instead, it's produced some truly remarkable statistics. Operating profit is up 56% this year, and has risen 159% over the past three years. Forty-six Travis Perkins branches were opened or acquired in 2000, bringing the total to 466. The company has also set up a central customer relations helpdesk and freephone numbers with the aim of generating constant improvements in service, bolstered by mailings, focus groups and monthly reports. Travis Perkins has bent over backwards for its customers, offering loyalty cards, 24-hour ordering via its website, www.tradesite.com, and Call Collect, a facility that allows customers to place an order by telephone or email and guarantees that the goods will be ready for collection within two hours. As the judges put it: "A class act – they're superb."

Local winner
EH Smith

EH Smith's turnover rose 16.7% in 1999-2000 – but its operating profit shot up 108.7% from £642,000 to more than £1.34m. Last year also saw its customer services boosted by the introduction of a free garden design service and the "panic wagon", which allows customers to order products for same-day delivery. These improvements aside, EH Smith maintains that its normal service can be classed as a rush system and strives for a 24-hour delivery promise.

Local second
Lawsons (Whetstone)

Again, Lawsons has demonstrated that small can be beautiful, almost doubling its turnover and increasing operating profit from £600,000 to £920,000. Two branches have opened, bringing the total to six, and showroom floorspace has quadrupled. Close-knit teams of staff have been trained to respond directly to customer needs, eliminating the need for dedicated enquiry lines, and there is a strong loyalty culture. Lawsons may not stay small for long.

Local third

With a name like Ecomerchant, you'd expect this firm to have impeccable green credentials – and it does. Operating out of a single outlet, the two-year-old firm runs the gamut of environmental products from solar panels and locally sourced bricks to organic glues and natural paints. The Kent-based outfit has forged relationships with like-minded builders and suppliers and has won a county Prince's Trust Award in recognition of its efforts.