Steve Parfett is to retire at the end of the year following a long career in which he turned his family business into a leading wholesaler.

He was a graduate trainee at Waitrose before setting up the cash and carry firm AG Parfett & Sons in Stockport with his father Alan and brother Robert.

Nowadays it is known as Parfetts and it has grown into a behemoth, with more than 600 employees and 12 sites across the UK.

Parfett served as managing director from 1989 to 2011 as it expanded rapidly across the country. In 2011, he moved up to the role of chairman as finance director David Grimes became managing director.

Since 2008, the firm has been 55% owned by its employees. In February it reported that revenue had grown 6% to £324 million, while pre-tax profits stood at £3.3m for the year to 30 June 30, 2017, up by 90% on the previous year.

It wholesales a huge range of beer, cider, wine and spirits from depots in Stockport, Aintree, Anfield, Halifax, Sheffield, Somercotes and Middlesbrough.

It is currently promoting everything from Carling, Stella and Hardys to Old Rosie and Edinburgh gin.

Grimes said Parfett’s departure “truly represents the end of an era”.

“The Parfetts executive board have thoroughly enjoyed working with Steve over the years and would like to take this opportunity to thank him for the valued support he has given on the journey to becoming an award-winning, fully employee-owned company,” he said.

Parfett has previously been named Family Director of the Year at the Institute of Directors, among other honours.

He is a respected industry commentator and has never been afraid to put his head above the parapet, having recently railed against the competition watchdog for failing to adequately tackle Tesco’s takeover of Booker.

James Bielby, chief executive at the Federation of Wholesale Distributors, said: “Steve has been an incredible servant of FWD. He has been FWD’s greatest supporter as a council member for many years and did multiple stints as chairman.

“His passion for all things wholesale is infectious and the enthusiasm with which he has thrown himself into working for the good of the entire industry will be sorely missed by his colleagues and competitors alike.

“His forthright views on issues such as Brexit, employee ownership and the value of independent retail are strongly held but softly expressed. A wholesaling legend.”

Parfett will retire from his role of chairman on December 31, 2018.