Local community retailers kick year off in award-winning style

Spar SM Farm
LEFT: Spar, Malone Road, Belfast.

Five Spar and Eurospar retailers from across Northern Ireland have bagged an array of awards from two of the top UK-wide retail award schemes to kick off the year.

The Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards and the Retail Industry Awards both took place virtually recently with Mulkerns Eurospar in Newry, Spar Fortfield in Carrickfergus, JC Stewart Magherafelt, Spar Malone Road and P&G Eurospar, Portadown, all taking home trophies.

RICHARD WATSON :

At The Forecourt Trader of the Year Awards Mulkerns Eurospar took the top award in the Best Community Engagement category and Spar Fortfield won Best Forecourt in the Northern Ireland regional category.

Commenting on Spar Fortfield, judges stated that the £3m Spar store, which opened in 2018, surpassed the needs of customers, whether it’s to pick up something quickly or relax and unwind, thanks to the Barista Bar Café on site.

They also noted the wide range of food options the store catered for, from daily Deli to Burger King and Subway as well as it’s diverse and locally sourced fresh range of produce.

At the prestigious Retail Industry Awards, often regarded as a benchmark of excellence for the industry, eight awards were won by Spar and Eurospar retailers in Northern Ireland.

Mulkerns Eurospar picked up another four top gongs: Food to Go Retailer of the Year (Independent), Most Sustainable Retailer Initiative of the Year (Independent), Community Retailer of the Year and Newcomer of the Year for Enya McAteer.

The business also received Highly Commended for Kelly McKeown in the Manager of the Year category, and for Best Use of Technology, earning the store a total of seven accolades in the past two weeks.

Judges said Mulkerns was a “wonderful example of a community store” and were impressed with the efforts taken to increase food-to-go sales, growing by 25 per cent in just 12 months.

Through its Zero Waste Wednesday initiative, the business has managed to remove 80 per cent of its plastic packaging from fruit and veg, cleaning product refill stations and reusable cups for hot drinks.

Newcomer of the Year Enya McAteer earned impressive feedback from the judges.

One said: “Her range of retail skills is very impressive. Add to this her ability and willingness to work in every department… she clearly leads by example.”

JC Stewart came out top in the Independent Retailer of the Year (over 6,000 sq ft), the only supermarket in Northern Ireland to get an award in this category, and also brought home the Fresh Produce Retailer of the Year award.

Judges called JC Stewart a “superb shop… concentrating on local produce, quality and excellent in-store theatre”.

One judge said: “I have seen some great stores – and those in Northern Ireland always push the boundaries – but this is the best store I have seen in my entire life.

“It is stand-out in terms of in-house own-brand production, range and quality – it’s a phenomenal store.”

P&G Eurospar, Portadown, operated by Henderson Retail, won Forecourt Retailer of the Year (company owned) with judges commending the store’s commitment to community and investment in technology, saying P&Gs was “more than just a forecourt”.

Spar Malone Road rounded up the flurry of impressive awards with the Post Office Retailer of the Year (Company Owned) award, also operated by Henderson Retail.

The Retail Industry Awards said the Post Office had “cemented their place in the local community with a wide range of creative activities and a hands-on approach to customer service,” and it was “a very well run business that puts the customer first”.

Organisers of the Retail Industry Awards also shone a spotlight on the entire industry for being frontline and key workers during an unprecedented year, rewarding the entire UK Grocery Retail Sector with the Outstanding Achievement Award for its work during the pandemic.

n More information on each awards scheme can be found at forecourttraderawards.co.uk and retailindustryawards.com

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