AG Parfett and Sons embrace employee ownership

Independent cash-and-carry retailer AG Parfett and Sons has been an employee-owned business since 2008, having been family-run previously.

Chairman Steve Parfett says: “It became clear that it was not the right time for the next generation of the Parfett family to take on management of the business, and we had a long and comprehensive review of the various options available to us.”

The Parfetts considered a management buyout, an initial public offering (IPO) and selling the business to a competitor, but dismissed all these options because of their potentially damaging effect on staff.

Instead, Parfett was keen to explore employee ownership, having worked as a graduate trainee at Waitrose, part of the employee-owned John Lewis Partnership. “In my view, it is the business model that is most like a well-run, caring family business,” he says. “It enables you to take a long-term business view, to take into account the efforts of everybody in the business and make everyone feel involved.”

Parfett opted for an employee trustbased share scheme, which means shares are held in a trust for the organisation’s 600 staff, rather than each employee having shares in their own name.

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Parfett says: “All the ownership is one trust, one pool for the employees’ benefi t. Instead of owning shares or dividends on shares, the benefit is in the way the business is run, the ability to have their say and receive an annual bonus.

“It is a long-term process to build the benefits of engagement and productivity. Certainly, lots of our employees show more interest and care more.”