Our night of heroes

Also see: Scottish Grocer Awards Roll of Honour and Scottish Grocer Awards photo gallery

Stores from all over Scotland take the titles in glittering event showcasing community retailing’s stars.

SCOTLAND’S local shops and convenience stores offer great service and inspiring involvement in communities across the country. And Scotland’s leading convenience retailing industry magazine Scottish Grocer honoured the country’s best stores and retailers at its own version of the Oscars, the Scottish Grocer Awards 2015, in a glittering ceremony at Glasgow’s five-star Hilton Hotel.

2015 saw some established businesses do well once again but there was also a new wave of national winners, including some fascinating new stores, who took prizes for the first time.

And at the end of the presentation the 500-strong audience heard how Scottish Grocer in association with major spirits brand Glen’s Vodka was presenting the important Award for Industry Achievement to an executive who has played the leading role in saving, re-establishing and developing a major UK wholesale company, which has helped independent retailers remain competitive.

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The evening began with a one-off award by Scottish Grocer magazine to retiring Scottish Grocers’ Federation chief executive John Drummond to mark the special contribution he has made to the Scottish community retailing industry, particularly in his 10 years as chief exec of SGF but also in his earlier career in wholesaling and retailing with Watson & Philip, Spar, Morning Noon & Night and Scotmid.

After dinner, TV star Rory Bremner wowed the audience with a routine that included “visits” from Barack Obama, David Cameron, Ed Miliband and even first minister Nicola Sturgeon (as a competitor in X Factor). He then went on to announce winners in a total of 23 Scottish Grocer Award categories.

The first trophy on the night made its way to Ayrshire when the Spar store in Dalrymple took one of two Dairy Awards, running out as winner in the Milk category. Judges praised it for its well-merchandised display that featured a fantastic selection of milk and other products and for its excellent use of point-of-sale material.

Staying with dairy, the McLeish store, a combined c-store, specialist food shop and coffee-stop in the Aberdeenshire town of Inverurie, was the winner of the Dairy Award for Yogurts and Desserts. Judges had been impressed by how the store had achieved just the right balance between big brands, healthy products and locally made desserts.

The remarkable Nisa-supplied MacLennans Supermarket on Benbecula (where major investment by a family-owned company has led to the development of a large new shop, with an excellent range of fresh produce and state-of the art equipment, serving Benbecula, North Uist and South Uist) was named Chilled Store of the Year.

2015 saw a repeat triumph for last year’s City Store of the Year, Nisa Extra in Dundee. Judges once again praised its excellent product range and services as well as its commitment to constant improvement and development.

In an award category being introduced this year the Spar store in Paisley Road, Renfrew was named the winner of the Retail Technology Award. Judges said they had been especially impressed with the store’s use of technology in all aspects of store management and by its strong commitment to technology training for staff.

In another new category for 2015 the Post Office Retailer of the Year title went to the Clydebank Post Office and Premier shop in the Clyde Shopping Centre in Clydebank. The family-owned business successfully moved the Post Office to a new site, offers excellent customer service and has recently launched an innovative new Post Office, stationery shop and coffee shop, called the Penny Black, in the west end of Glasgow.

National Lottery Retailer of the Year was Cults Stores, in Cults in Aberdeen. And the Cults store made it a double when it also took the title of Tobacco Retailer of the Year. Judges in the National Lottery of the Year Award said owner Chris Cobb and his team are very active in promoting National Lottery Good Causes to customers and talk proudly about how the National Lottery has helped rejuvenate the local area. In Tobacco Retailer of the Year the store was praised for its knowledge of the market and the strong systems in place to ensure staff know and comply with all tobacco-retailing regulations.

The award for Collectables Retailer of the Year was taken by the Fleming Gifts Ltd store in Whitecrook, Clydebank. The awards event audience heard how the market for football trading cards and other collectable products is especially strong in Scotland and judges described the Whitecrook store as an Aladdin’s cave of collectables that features eye-catching displays inside and outside the store.

Another Ayrshire winner was announced when the Day-Today store in Hamilton Street, Saltcoats took the title as Confectionery Retailer of the Year. Judges said confectionery is obviously very important to the impressively extended and refitted shop. It shows very good understanding of its customers’ preferences and of the variety of shopping patterns through different times of day and parts of the week. It also markets seasonal confectionery very well.

Wallyford Supermarket in Wallyford near Edinburgh was judged Best Soft Drinks Outlet of the Year. Judges said the store impressed by stocking a very wide range of products that includes a broad variety of brands, products, packs and sizes, in fixtures that are well laid-out, attractive and easy for shoppers to make their way around.

The Licensed Retailer of the Year award went to South Lanarkshire when Best-one@Brownlies, in Biggar, took the prize. The shop stocks a range that includes well-known lines as well as specialist products. It makes great use of information screens in its licensed area and holds popular beer and wine tasting events.

In the Edinburgh district of Oxgangs, Broadway Convenience Store took two awards on the night when it was named Responsible Retailer of the Year and Independent Retailer of the Year. In the Responsible Retailer category judges said that over and above having excellent systems to ensure compliance with all age-related sales restrictions the store was also a community hub and had excellent relationships with local schools and organisations. In the Independent Retailer category judges were impressed by how the Broadway store combines community involvement with commercial awareness and works to continually improve.

The 2015 Champion of Beer Award went to Day-Today Elite in Beith in North Ayrshire. Beer takes centre stage at the recently opened store, which includes a glass-fronted, walk-in chilled ‘beer cave’ that is the centrepiece of the store and houses an impressive range of beer spanning big brands, world beers and craft brews.

Scotmid’s store in Moredun, Edinburgh was named Sustainable Retailer of the Year. The store is thought to have been the first convenience outlet in the UK to have a host of energy-saving systems retrofitted. A sophisticated computer ‘brain’ manages heating, lighting and refrigeration. The store sends zero waste to landfill.

There were two awards in the Symbol Store of the Year category. In the division for businesses with one store under an individual fascia the title was taken by Nisa Local Pinkie Farm Convenience Store in Musselburgh. Judges were very impressed by the new store, which they said merged the best of modern Nisa-backed retailing with a very strong range of local produce and high standards of presentation and merchandising.

For businesses with more than one store under a fascia the Symbol Store prize went to the CJ Lang & Son-owned Spar store in High Street, Carnoustie. It also took the title in 2014 but has since added a Subway food-to-go operation and an upgraded Post Office. Merchandising at the store is excellent and staff members are dedicated to providing excellent customer service.

The Community Champion Award went to Fife when the Premier symbol shop Smeaton Stores in Chestnut Avenue, Kirkcaldy took the title. Judges said the family-run shop, which is situated in an area that has faced many challenges, has been the driving force behind a range of efforts to bring the local community together. It has backed, initiated or been involved in everything from children’s parties, the development of sports teams, healthy-eating initiatives, school talks, work experience schemes and food banks. Owners Asif and Abda are passionate about improving the area the shop serves.

Lorraine Dorricott of the Scotmid store in Lesmahagow in South Lanarkshire was the 2015 Employee of the Year. Judges said she combined impeccable work in the bakery counter of the store with customer service that is second to none. And she’s always ready to go the extra mile, including delivering groceries to the old or infirm when that’s required.

Charles Wilson
Charles Wilson
Gerry Haughey, who runs the Spar store in Thornliebank, Glasgow was named Store Manager of the Year. Judges described Gerry as a highly motivated store manager with extensive experience and a vast knowledge of the local area, who gives meticulous attention to detail.

In the penultimate award of the evening Colin Smith, who developed the impressive Nisa Local Pinkie Farm Convenience Store in Musselburgh, was named Entrepreneur of the Year.
Judges praised his willingness to invest substantially in the project, gather the support of two high-profile businessmen in the industry and see a complicated project through to the point where the new store had proved an award winner in its first year of operation.

In the final award of the evening Award for Industry Achievement the audience heard how Charles Wilson had been given the award for his remarkable 10-year period of leadership as chief executive of Booker. He had taken over the reins of hugely important wholesaler when it was in serious debt and had declining sales. Now it has a healthy cash surplus and massively increased turnover and profitability. And the revitalised Booker has played an important role in ensuring that convenience retailers can compete effectively with large supermarkets, said Patrick Duffy, managing editor of Scottish Grocer.

Accepting the award, Charles Wilson told local retailers in the audience that they should “be proud” of themselves. After 50 years of fierce competition local retailers had survived and were now performing better than the supermarket giants, he said.