Steve Parfett is not one to follow the herd. While everyone else is going down the delivered wholesale route, the AG Parfett MD is staying put. “We run big cash and carries. It takes all our effort to do that,” reasons the man whose reputation precedes him thanks to his role as chairman of Landmark Cash and Carry. “You can’t deliver at cash and carry prices.”
It is a business philosophy that has stood the company in good stead. With five depots dotted across the north west, Yorkshire and East Midlands, the company currently turns over around £210m a year.
Low prices is just one tactic to encourage “promiscuous” retailers to choose Parfetts as their main depot. Two years ago, the company launched retail club Go Local in response to supplier demands for “more disciplined” promotions. The club, which expects its 200 members to run 20 promotional lines a month in return for better terms, has scored notable successes. One member, a c-store operator located two miles from Sainsbury’s flagship store in Hazel Grove, near Stockport, reported a 10% uplift in sales after joining. Compliance remains an issue, however, and although problems with promotions are usually “more cock-up than conspiracy”, the company has “weeded out” those who cannot meet the strict criteria on the grounds that “credibility with the suppliers is crucial”.
As to the future of the independent sector, Parfett says he understands the anxieties, but reckons the pendulum will swing back towards independents as suppliers “recognise the folly of being mesmerised by the multiples”.
Wishful thinking perhaps, but he’s been right before.