Premier Racetrack’s Shamly Sud was the star of the show at the SLR Awards, claiming the title of Scottish Local Retailer of the Year along with a further four gongs. The virtual event also saw Spar Scotland named as Symbol Group of the Year.
The 2021 SLR Awards, held virtually on 27 October, saw Shamly Sud crowned as Scottish Local Retailer of the Year.
The Glasgow-based retailer also collected the Forecourt of the Year, Vaping & Nicotine Replacement Retailer of the Year and #ThinkSmart Innovation Awards. Additionally, her Premier Racetrack Crowwood store was named SLR New Store of the Year.
Shamly, who runs the Premier Racetrack chain of stores with her family, has drawn inspiration from study tours across the globe to create some of the most immersive shopping experiences it’s possible to find in Scotland. From liquid nitrogen ice cream to Havana cigars, from 60+ flavours of slush to fully chilled beer caves, Premier Racetrack simply elevates local retailing to a new level.
“We often overuse phrases like ground-breaking but one visit to any of Shamly’s stores is all you need to see that she and her family have torn up the rulebook and written a new one,” said the judges. “Visiting one of her stores is a genuine experience. They are unique in the UK.
“Premier Racetrack is a truly outstanding business and we are proud to have Shamly as our SLR Local Retailer of the Year 2021.”
Chip off the old block
Falkirk retailer Anand Cheema, who only bought his first store in 2020, was named SLR Young Retailer of the Year.
As the son of Scottish Grocers Federation Chief Executive Pete Cheema, a former successful multi-site retailer himself, Anand has been able to call on the support and experience of his family, but has also had the additional pressure of being in the spotlight to deal with in his first year as a retailer.
His Spar Falkirk store, described by the judges as “very, very pretty,” also collected the SLR Refit of the Year award.
“The quality of thought that has gone into designing the store is exceptional,” the judges said. “A large food-to-go island, a hot food counter and a full range across every important category means Spar Falkirk can cater for every requirement.”
Gongs for Greens
The evening proved fruitful for former SLR Retailer of the Year Harris Aslam. His Nisa Greens of Ellon store claimed two titles: Scottish Brands Retailer of the Year and Off-Trade Retailer of the Year.
The judges noted that “there are locally, regionally and nationally sourced Scottish products available to the store’s customers in virtually every product category from gins and beers to confectionery, fresh meat, fresh produce and chilled”.
They also said: “His off-trade section is similarly inspirational, offering something for everyone, again including many locally produced beers, gins and more.”
Chris claims two
Ayrshire retailer Chris McCallum also claimed two awards. Chris was named both Fresh & Chilled Retailer of the Year and Sustainability Retailer of the Year. His Spar Coylton store was hailed by the judges for its “next generation fresh and chilled offer and its admirable commitment to driving the vital sustainability agenda”.
Spar Coylton was fully refitted recently, with sustainability front of mind. This meant installing energy efficient refrigeration and lighting throughout, and adding reflective panels to the front door to help manage in-store temperatures.
Additionally, the store has committed a huge amount of space to the fresh produce and chilled categories, perfectly reflecting the growing demand for these products in convenience retailing.
The importance of fresh and chilled in convenience retailing was underscored by a second category award, with Scotmid Barnton named Fresh & Chilled Retailer of the Year for a convenience multiple operator.
An outstanding store in every sense, Scotmid Barnton is one of Scotmid’s newest stores and the enormous space dedicated to the fresh produce and chilled categories perfectly reflects the growing demand in convenience retailing.
A pair of awards also went to Renfrew retailer Saleem Sadiq, named as Soft Drinks Retailer of the Year, while his Spar Renfrew store claimed the Team of the Year Award.
The judges agreed that “Spar Renfrew’s soft drinks offer is simply about as good as it gets in convenience. A huge range across all key sub-categories, a big selection of larger format packs and multipacks to cater for the current trend for get-togethers and all the latest new products, all presented beautifully.”
The store also collected the Team of the Year category, in recognition of the staff response when Saleem was bedridden with Covid. The team swung into action and kept the store running efficiently, despite the many challenges of lockdown, and without Saleem able to help and guide them.
What shoppers want
Premier Birnam Stores was named Food-to-go Retailer of the Year, with the store hailed by the judges for the “absolutely fantastic food-to-go offer available in the store, bang in line with current shopper trends”.
The food-to-go section of the store has been fully modernised and expanded and offers an enormous range of options, perfect for busy shoppers to grab and go at any time of the day.
The judges noted that “Premier Birnam has exactly the type of offer that today’s shoppers are looking for: great quality, great value pricing and a menu that offers something for shoppers in every key day part, be that breakfast, lunch or even evening meal.”
While many stores have adopted home delivery over the last 18 months, Dundee retailer Umayr Asif has taken the service to a level that the SLR judges hadn’t seen before, anywhere in the UK.
Umayr took the Home Delivery Retailer of the Year title for his outstanding Premier News Food & Wine Nethergate store, lauded for the “almost incredible scale and complexity of its class-leading home delivery business”.
Using Snappy Shopper, Umayr and his team have built an enormous home delivery operation on top of the in-store business. He now runs nine delivery vehicles and completes many hundreds of deliveries every week.
SLR Publishing Director Antony Begley commented: “It’s fair to say that the judges unanimously agreed that Umayr and his team are doing something truly special.”
Another retailer doing something special is Ian Smith, who was named Newstrade Retailer of the Year for the third consecutive year.
His Premier Turriff store offers a full range of local, regional and national newspapers as well as an enormous selection of magazines running to many hundreds of individual titles. Ian manages the category closely and regularly updates his range to meet current demands. He also operates a vibrant Home News Delivery service.
The judges said: “Premier Turriff shows what is possible when you commit to the category and truly understand your customers.”
With stores all over Scotland stepping up to do their bit during the pandemic, the Community Retailer of the Year Award proved a tough category for the judges. So tough in fact, that three stores were named as joint winners.
Premier Linktown Local, Premier Watson’s Grocer and Day Today Stenhousemuir shared the award, with all three stores adjudged to have been true community heroes over the last 18 months.
Faraz Iqbal’s Premier store has long been a hub of community activity in the Kirkcaldy area of Linktown. During lockdown he also introduced a home delivery service to make sure that vulnerable and elderly customers as well as those shielding and self-isolating could still get what needed.
As the only store serving Moniaive, Graham Watson’s shop has always been a vital resource for the local community, but during the pandemic the residents of the village in Dumfries and Galloway came to rely on it more than ever. When the supermarkets began running out of key products at the start of lockdown, Graham sourced essentials in bulk from as far away as Australia then spent many long nights weighing and bagging products in preparation for customers. He, too, introduced home delivery for the vulnerable and elderly.
Asiyah and Jawad Javed’s monumental efforts during the pandemic have been an inspiration to all, not just in the Stenhousemuir area but throughout Scotland and across the globe. One of the many reasons they won was their commitment at the start of lockdown to hand out free care packages, including hand wash, to anyone who wanted it in their area. This was at the time when many less scrupulous retailers were hiking the price of handwash to exploit a desperate situation.
The Javeds also collected the Confectionery Retailer of the Year Award.
Law maker and life saver
Two individuals who made vastly different contributions to the convenience retailing industry over the past year were also awarded.
Daniel Johnson MSP was recognised for bringing a new law into force in Scotland that gives local retailers far greater protection from the abuse and violence that they face daily. Receiving the Special Recognition Award, Johnson said local retailers were “genuine key workers who play a fundamental role at the heart of every community in Scotland” and “deserve more protection under the law, particularly after their efforts and achievements during the pandemic”.
Meanwhile, Berwickshire shopworker Angela Lindsay was hailed as the Unsung Hero of the Year. Angie’s quick thinking and kind heart played a life-saving role when one of her customers suffered a stroke in the Blackadder Mini Market in Greenlaw, Duns.
When store regular David Wilson started slurring his words, Angie followed him home where she found him in extreme distress. She quickly contacted members of his family and organised an ambulance. Her quick thinking helped ensure David made a great recovery.
The judges said: “This is true heroism and is a wonderful and uplifting example of that is so special about this unique industry.”
For the first time, this year’s ceremony included three symbol group awards and it was Spar Scotland that claimed the coveted Symbol Group of the Year crown.
Transformed in the last three years by CEO Colin McLean (pictured) and his management team, Spar Scotland was hailed by the judging panel as “a very fine example of a Scottish world-class business”.
It was the company’s efforts over the last year specifically that were recognised at the ceremony, and Antony Begley praised its performance as “nothing short of remarkable”.
Also remarkable, Nisa Retail’s ‘Make A Difference Locally’ (MADL) charity programme was a well-deserved winner of the SLR Symbol Group Community Initiative of the Year.
To date, more than £13m has been distributed to good causes throughout the UK through MADL, with more than 15,500 individual donations made by Nisa retailers. In 2020 alone, more than £1.25m was generated and shared, a 44% increase on the previous year.
Helen Lyons commented: “Making A Difference Locally has always been, and remains, a unique fundraising model and to have donated more than £13m to good causes is simply phenomenal.”
The final symbol award went to United Wholesale Scotland (UWS), named SLR Symbol Innovation of the Year winner, recognised for its impressive commitment to leveraging the power of technological innovation to drive improvements in its business.
Among the initiatives that helped secure UWS the award was the launch of a brand new Home Delivery service at the start of lockdown in 2020. UWS also implemented a raft of other technological innovations – including a new ‘pay on your phone’ app – to help streamline the business and ensure the safety of its customers.
Congratulating all of the evening’s winners, Antony Begley concluded: “The SLR Awards 2021 is really a celebration of the entire sector. Every local retailer in Scotland deserves enormous praise and recognition for the role they have played over the last 18 months. Scotland needed you – and you delivered.”