Awards Profile – Employee of the Year 2021

Tanya Wilson winning employee of the year receiving her award
Tanya’s community support was recognised at the SG Awards 2021 when she was named employee of the year.

Scottish Grocer caught up with Tanya Wilson, store manager at Spar Eastriggs and winner of Employee of the Year at the 2021 Scottish Grocer Awards.

THE pandemic was difficult for everyone in different ways, but Scotland’s kids had it particularly tough.

That was clear to Tanya Wilson and her team at Spar Eastriggs, and it was a state of affairs she wasn’t willing to entertain for very long.

Like all good retailers, Tanya rose to the challenges of Covid and then some. While children were stuck at home, Tanya and store supervisor Gillian Campbell were pounding the pavements. Dressed as an Easter Bunny and a huge flower, the pair handed out Easter treats to the youngsters of the village, spreading cheer in difficult circumstances.

The self-confessed ideas woman of the business, Tanya, with the support of her team at Spar Eastriggs, didn’t think twice about springing into action. It’s something of a theme at Spar Eastriggs, where community always comes first.

As a manager at a company-owned Spar Scotland store, looking after the mental health and emotional wellbeing of customers may be outside of Tanya’s job description, but that didn’t stop her going above and beyond for them.

photograph of Spar Easteriggs staff

In recognition of her extraordinary efforts, Scottish Grocer Awards judges named Tanya Wilson the Employee of the Year for 2021 – although her real prize continues to be the smiles she sees on childrens’ faces.

Meeting Tanya, who knows just about every customer by name, it would be easy to assume she has been a fixture of Eastriggs all her life.

That’s not the case though. Her close relationship with the local community was built from
the ground up, after moving to the store from Spar Annan, one village over.

Despite 17 years in her current role, Tanya still remembers her first day well.

“I didn’t know anybody when I walked in here, not one person. I got the bus through from Annan and didn’t even know where to get off the bus,” she said.

A lot has changed since then and Tanya has a well-deserved reputation as the beating heart of her community.

The list of community-focused activities that Tanya and her team engage in each year is exhaustive. Halloween dress-up days with tricks and treats are covered. Fundraising for Children in Need, complete with more cracking costumes – that’s the box ticked. The store facilitates visits from the local primary school, hosts treasure hunts with prizes to be won, and much more.

It’s enough to fill a book, which Tanya and her team have. Serving as a chronicle of the village, the store keeps a beautiful bound collection of pictures documenting the various themed days and fun events hosted by Spar Eastriggs.

“There’s a book. I’ve done it since coming here. It started off fairly low key – there were always wee tombolas and wee raffles. But I’ve got a big love for kids.

“So we started doing a lot of things but it really took off for lockdown. We were restricted and had to think outside the box. How can we still keep these kids entertained?” she said.

a bound photobook showing an easter bunny delivering eggs to children
Employees at Spar Eastriggs are encouraged and keen to dress up for events that take place all the year round.

One of the highlights of the year for the community is the store’s Christmas celebrations, Tanya explained. Not content with running a busy Spar store to a high standard, she also serves as Santa’s secret helper.

“What we do is we put out a letterbox. The kids come along with their parents and post their wee letter to Santa.

“Then, my dad, who is 74, sits at my table and he writes to them. I tell him what the kids have been like in the shop, so he can make it quite personal. That way, they might think, ‘How did Santa see me doing that?’

“We buy selection boxes and wrap them up and I’ll tell them Santa has delivered their letters and they should come to me and collect them,” she said.

It’s a little touch of magic for the kids and a bit of a help for parents, too. Tanya said that after Santa told one little girl how he had seen she was misbehaving in the store but had also been making a real effort to be kinder, the lesson really stuck.

This Christmas will be more of the same. But, when it comes to Easter, the local children can expect to see Spar Eastriggs take things to the next level. Tanya has plans in the works and the store will be teaming up with the local playgroup.

“We’re going to make it even bigger. We hope to do an It’s A Knockout-style event and hold it across the field,” she said.

Kids may be the focus, but adults aren’t left out. Tanya has previously donned an Adam Ant costume for an 80s-themed dance in aid of the Heart Foundation.

Having heard all of the community-focused work Tanya and her team engage in, it would be easy to assume store standards are allowed to take a back seat.

That’s not the case at Spar Eastriggs. Tanya does all of her community work in her own time. Her enthusiasm for throwing on fancy dress and entertaining the village is mirrored in her passion for producing great results in store.

“There’s always stuff do be doing. I’ve never worked in a place where the time goes by so quickly,” she said.

Time may pass quickly for Tanya, but how do her colleagues at Spar Eastriggs enjoy having a job in which you may find yourself dressing up as a zombie nun on Halloween?

“Some of the staff weren’t keen when we first did it, but now they’re right into it. I don’t even ask them to buy anything for Halloween because I’ve got hundreds of costumes,” she said.

Spar Easteriggs shopfront
Tanya came to Spar Eastriggs 17 years ago and is now a welcome member of the community.