Taking a brisk walk with Tilly the Labrador pup or indulging in an evening of poker with his friends is how Peter Mullen winds down after a long day spent managing Parfetts' flagship Stockport depot.

And it really is a long day. Mullen, who embarked on his career with the family-run wholesale cash and carry business 25 years ago, arrives at work in time for the depot's opening at 7am, and often works well past its 7pm closing time.

He has managed the 100,000 sq ft depot, which also houses the company's head office, for the past 16 years. During this time he has nurtured the Parfetts' philosophy of growing a "profitable family business which cares for customers and staff through recognising the importance of their development."

Service is the name of the game for Mullen, and he has striven to ensure that Stockport provides a point of difference from its nearest competitors and give its customers that bit extra. Booker and Bestway both have depots within a few miles.

Mullen says the need for "hero" customer service has become vital because of the rising tide of grey market alcohol, a major concern for the entire wholesale industry. "We are struggling to compete with the knock down prices that these products are selling for. All we can do is ensure we remain as competitive as we can, make our depot as inviting as possible and maintain high levels of customer service, so customers keep coming back to buy from us," he says.

He spends the vast majority of each day out on the depot floor chatting to his customers, all of whom he knows on first name terms. He says: "Without our customers we do not have a business. We aim to continuously ensure that we are offering customers a variety of means to run a better business."

He has achieved this by creating a welcoming environment that offers a comprehensive product range backed by high levels of availability. The depot has recently launched a schedule of new product tastings each Monday, and continues to push its one-day special offers each Wednesday.

The depot is set to launch more than 40 new lines of Polish foods to support its Polish beer offering, which Mullen says has enjoyed great popularity since its launch earlier in the year. The warehouse also has an ever increasing fair trade portfolio, which now includes wine.

Mullen ensures the depot is open 364 days a year, only shutting for Christmas Day. "I always make a point of opening up on New Year's Day. We don't get that many customers and it's certainly not a big turnover day, mostly people stocking up on cigarettes, but it's about offering a service, and our staff are only too happy to do it."

Mullen is no stranger to the fact that high levels of customer service and staff satisfaction go hand in hand. Staff welfare is a high priority for Parfetts. It is one of the main reasons a large proportion of the depot's employees have worked there for more than 20 years. The fact that, as part of its 20th anniversary in 2000, Parfetts gave each of its employees a week's pay for ­every year that they had worked for the company might be another.