Before joining Lawrence Hunt, Kevin Hunt worked for James Hall, the only wholesaler that the Spar retailer has ever traded with. He says that during that 17-month period he worked through several different departments, including fresh food, which he focused on for eight months. That experience has proved invaluable, he says. "I'm able to speak to our staff from Hall's perspective and I've still got a couple of dozen personal contacts there that remember me."

After a difficult period working with Spar stores in Austria, during which he had to grapple with "massive stores, language problems and homesickness", he returned to the UK. He moved to ­Lawrence Hunt in 1987 as assistant manager of its Bolton store.

Two years later, he was promoted to manager at a smaller store. It's a core principle for the retail chain that its head office managers must have hands-on ­retail experience at store level, says Hunt.

Having managed two stores, in 1990, Hunt was given the project to install scanning in 18 stores the chain had at that time. Then in 1995 he took an area manager role overseeing scanning and fresh foods, with particular focus on the roll-out of pre-packed fresh food. He also worked on introducing chiller cabinets in stores and boosting space devoted to chilled food, in competition with the multiples. Finally, he assumed Lawrence Hunt's mantel as MD in 2000.