The northern lights were shining at the SLR Awards (6 September) as Banffshire-based Billy Gatt was crowned Scottish Local Retailer of the Year.
The Awards turned 21 this year and if there had been a cake then Billy would have taken the biggest slice. Along with the prestigious the top award, his stunning Premier Whitehills store was named Best New Store of the Year.
SLR Publishing Editor Antony Begley said Billy had taken many years’ experience in local retailing, distilled them down and turned them into what is one of the finest stores he has ever seen. Describing the £1.6m store as “an absolute belter,” Begley said Premier Whitehills is “easy to service and easy to shop” and “staffed by a team that just love being there”.
Reflecting the current strength in depth across Scotland’s local retailing sector, no individual store won more than one of the evening’s 15 category-based awards, although Premier Girish’s @ Barmulloch picked up the Team of the Year award to go with its Soft Drinks Retailer of the Year gong.
The Young Scottish Retailer of the Year award went to Anand Cheema after a busy year overcoming many major challenges, not least of which was changing symbol group. Anand’s Costcutter Fresh in Falkirk store also won the Off-Trade Retailer of the Year award.
Julie-Ann Whyte of Whytes of New Pitsligo was named Unsung Hero of the Year. The award follows a truly remarkable journey for Julie-Ann from the oil industry to local retailing. This started during the pandemic when she helped keep her local community fed and watered during lockdown.
The Special Recognition award went to Premier Broadway Convenience Store, run by Dennis and Linda Williams. The store, which also won the Community Involvement award, was recognised for 40 years of outstanding community service. As Antony Begley said: “For many locals Premier Broadway is the community.”
In the symbol group awards, it was a clean sweep for CJ Lang, with Spar Scotland winning both the Community Initiative of the Year award and Symbol Group of the Year.
Antony Begley commented: “The standard of entry this year was just extraordinarily high, particularly in light of the challenges the industry has faced in the last few years. In 21 years of doing the awards we’ve never seen so much investment across the trade and that’s a massively encouraging sign. We always said we hoped that the sector would deliver a lasting Covid legacy and the evidence of that is all around us.
“Every retailer who made it onto a shortlist this year can be massively proud of themselves and should make a point of congratulating their entire team. This is, after all, a team game and we can achieve little without our colleagues and team mates.
“The future of Scottish local retailing looks incredibly bright, a remarkable thing to be able to say considering the state of the economy and the challenges that shoppers face. We are the channel of choice and long may that continue. Well done to everyone.”
You can see all the winners on the SLR Awards website.