Adrian Threlfall’s favourite sweets are wine gums. And as depot manager of confectionery cash and carry specialist Hancocks’ new Watford depot, he gets plenty of opportunity to indulge in them.
Watching the waistline is a perpetual problem, says Threlfall. “I love sweets,” he says, “and I love this job.” This is no surprise, given that he is looking out of his office at the new Willy Wonka chocolate range. In fact, for someone with a sweet tooth, a Hancocks depot is like a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, although despite his self-confessed portly stature Threlfall does not invite comparisons with Augustus Gloop.
During his first role with the company, as a shelf-stacker, Threlfall didn’t think he would be able to cope with the sugar smell. Twelve years on, he is about to receive a long-service award. His first taste of the sector came in 1984, working part time in a depot while on a YTS scheme. A visiting Hancocks employee told him there was a full-time job going in Bradford. “It had just been built and I thought, I am getting £26.25 a week at the moment and Bradford pays £33.99. The decision was made.”
Assistant manager jobs in Stoke on Trent, Portsmouth and Bradford followed and in 1999 Threlfall got his first manager position at Preston. He returned south to Watford to open the 15,000 sq ft depot on March 13 this year. This is Hancocks’ 16th site, and as usual deliberately sited next to key competition, in this case Booker and Dhamecha. It is also the first of a new wave of expansion for the company, which is now in its 43rd year and run by the founder Ray Hancock’s sons Andrew and Adrian.
Threlfall, who is in charge of a team of 12, believes Hancocks’ success is down to its accessible sites, comprehensive range, deep cut promotions and good availability. It sells more than 5,000 lines with a 60/40 split for sugar/chocolate. The recent craze for retro sweets is proving beneficial with Threlfall serving a number of high-profile retro sweet shops, although, as he points out, Hancocks has never stopped offering the likes of flying saucers, love hearts and candy necklaces.
At Watford, ABC letters are topping the list of must-have sweets, outselling the nearest competition by 25%, while in chocolate Kit Kat is the bestseller. “We are struggling to keep up stock levels of Aero Bubbles – this has been the best new line,” says Threlfall. Soft drinks are also a pull – they account for 10% of sales.
Threlfall is now looking forward to some good weather while he embarks on a refit of his new house, two streets away. With no ceilings or floors at the moment his depot is proving to have another use – as a place to store furniture.