An awards like no other to end a year like no other

Antony Begley

On reflection, it seems somehow appropriate that a year like no other culminated in an SLR Rewards like no other.

Not only was it our first ever virtual awards, the focus and feel of the event was also different: yes, the stars of the show were our winners like Dan Brown, Umar Majid, Charles Wilson and Linda Williams – but the evening was really a celebration of the entire local retailing sector in Scotland.

We named a couple of Covid Heroes on the night, but that’s because it would have been impractical to name all 5,000 or so local retailing Covid Heroes who kept communities across Scotland in one piece in 2020.

When the going got tough, and it absolutely got tougher than it has ever been, the sector that came out fighting, pivoting, innovating, caring, sharing, working every hour and generally just being awesome was the local retailing sector. Local retailers owned 2020 – and for all the right reasons. There isn’t a community across Scotland that doesn’t owe a massive debt of gratitude to its local retailers.

And for that reason, the SLR Rewards was our salute to every single one of you. Our big hope for 2021 is that many of the consumers who discovered their local store for the first time in 2020 have also discovered that they quite liked the experience, thank you very much, and will continue using your stores long into the future.

So it was a suitably unusual awards event to end a strange year. It wasn’t how we wanted to do it – we much prefer the good old fashioned knees-up that we’ve been having for the best part of 20 years. Remember that time when you used to be able to go to industry events, meet actual people, drink draught beer and generally just enjoy the banter about what’s been going in the industry?

Anyway, virtual it had to be and virtual it was. As it turns out, it went pretty well and, judging by the viewing figures – we’re up to well over 750 views now – the format proved pretty popular with a lot of people. I suppose sitting at home in your PJs with a bottle of something in hand has its upsides.

It was also great to just see so many industry colleagues joining in and, while it’s no match for the real thing, it was certainly a pleasant way to begin drawing the curtain on a year that will be remembered long into the future as nothing less than a shocker.

As for 2021, that remains to be seen. It certainly doesn’t feel like we’ve turned over a new leaf quite yet. There’s likely to be a fair bit of more of them same before we see an end in sight – but the world has changed in the meantime and, for my money, nobody has changed with it quite as effectively as the local retailing sector. There’s plenty to be optimistic about, that’s for sure.

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Antony Begley, Publishing Director