Parfett’s Cash & carries are still what we’re about, says Parfett’s retail chief

Parfett’s has promoted Guy Swindell, former Head of Customer Development & Marketing, to Retail Director, a role where he now works closely with the wholesaler’s independent retailers and suppliers to grow profitable sales. Guy’s new role as Retail Director coincides with Andy Whitworth changing position from Operations Director to Wholesale Director. Guy Swindell spoke to Wholesale Manager.

We start by talking about Guy’s progress over twenty years to a place on the board, starting from working as a part time warehouse operative at Parfett’s Stockport depot while studying for a graphic design degree. He is down to earth about his success:

“You could probably still do it at Parfett’s, we massively encourage internal progression. We’re employeeowned and see it as a duty to encourage people to apply for internal promotions. A number of our General Managers are in their mid-thirties and have come through the ranks.”

Steve, AG and Robert Parfett founded AG Parfett in 1980 and it remained family-owned until 2008, when Steve, as MD, decided that no-one in the family wanted to take on running the business, so it was sold to an employee trust, first of all then to the staff. The family have now ceased all involvement but the business is as independent as a wholesaler can be:

“We were part of Landmark and now we’re members of Unitas, but we have always done our own thing with Go Local, our Retail Club.”

After graduating Guy was working in the depot while trying to find work and heard about a job in the Trading Department, which he applied for. “In time, I found out that all Parfett’s design work for brochures and so on was outsourced and I saw the opportunity to get involved and keep it in house so we could do it more cost effectively. After that, when the company wanted design for fascias and so on, I took it on, and things built from there.”

In his current role, Guy is ultimately responsible for retailer recruitment and marketing, but also for designing the store fascias and the digital side as well. In between times, he is also liaising with suppliers, out visiting customers, talking at conferences and events and looking into customer loyalty.

Parfett’s Trading department is focused on Go Local and the Retail Club:

“We have excellent point of sale support and amazing deals. We believe it’s the strongest out there, backed up by our people on the road. We also have rebates for customers and people auditing them.”

“Can the cash ‘n’ carries survive?” is a question Guy Swindell gets asked all the time. His answer is well rounded:

“A few years ago, people were talking about the death of the cash & carry, but it’s still the best way to describe what our business is all about. People will turn more and more to delivered wholesalers, but our attitude is that we’ll try as hard as possible to keep people coming in for as long as they want to.

“We get a thousand customers a week visiting the Stockport depot, which is ninety-nine percent cash & carry. I suppose our Sheffield depot is the near future, fifty percent cash & carry, fifty percent delivered, but the cash & carry customers still like to come in there as well. These customers continue to believe in cash & carries and they are still our core customer base.”

Parfett’s biggest sales categories haven’t changed a lot over the years, says Guy: “We’ve seen huge growth on the licensed side and carry a huge range. We’ve also seen significant increases in soft drinks, crisps and snacks. We do business with all the major brewers and we’re resolute about carrying on being involved with tobacco. Even with the display ban and all the other legislation, cigarettes remain half our business.”

Looking at recent developments elsewhere in the business, Guy says of Palmer & Harvey’s demise, “We don’t want to wish misfortune on others but we got customers approaching us. People flocked to us wanting immediate supply and retailers needed help.”

Guy is also calm about Tesco-Booker: “The suppliers we talk to in the main see Tesco/Booker as two separate businesses, but as part of Unitas we’re stronger now, and in a better position to take them on.”

It just leaves one more question. Do Guy and his colleagues want to move into the South?

“It’s certainly our ambition in time. We have seven cash & carry depots across mainland in Wales, the North, the Midlands. We have Summercoats, near Derby and have customers as far down as Leicester. We could head further south if the opportunity comes up. We’ll have to see!”