In 2002, Parfetts introduced a retail club for the first time. This was a reaction to supplier criticism that investment in price in wholesale was not passed on to the consumer, and therefore it was a waste of time and we should never aspire to the same pricing as the multiples. After much deliberation, we decided our club would be open to anyone prepared to adhere to the promotional discipline, with no franchise areas, and we were determined the only products featured would be the right products for retailers and then only if a truly competitive price was offered. The club was to be called Go Local and started off modestly.

We quickly identified that giving assurance to suppliers that this was a disciplined scheme was essential to our success and made a major investment at the earliest opportunity to provide at least one Go Local co-ordinator in every depot, who (though this was never explicit) were in effect the scheme’s policemen and women. We were nervous about the effect should we need to remove non-conforming customers from the scheme, but determined to do so nonetheless. Fortunately we did not have too many problems as non-conformists generally recognised when they were not complying and accepted the decision.

“The scheme now accounts for more than 50% of our turnover”

In fact, the scheme quickly became recognised as one of the very best such clubs by suppliers and customers. It became more and more successful until we had 600 customers participating. It would have been easy to be complacent at this point, and I was!

What I have found incredibly rewarding as I have changed my role to chairman, however, has been the way in which my team has not only taken the helm of the business, but has been far-sighted enough to know that brave and challenging decisions have to be taken for the long term.

I am delighted that Go Local has moved on unrecognisably in the past two years, with a tiered structure to recognise the requirements of customers at three levels and the huge move to become a symbol group rather than a retail club.

We now have more than 1,000 stores in Go Local, which continues to develop and grow. At the top level - Go Local Plus - stores are comparable with the very best in the industry and interest is growing very fast. The scheme is the bedrock of our business and customer relationships, with scheme customers accounting for more than 50% of our turnover.

As we reach the end of a challenging year, I am both excited and pleased with the developments led by David, Greg and Andy and supported by our colleagues. It is a privilege to see them take the baton and run with it. Merry Christmas and a prosperous new year to all.

Steve Parfett is chairman of AG Parfett & Sons