Entries are already flowing in for Convenience Store's Sales Assistant of the Year Awards, as store owners and managers take the opportunity to give their staff a massive pat on the back.
There's still time to get your nominations in, and as a small recognition of the help given by managers and store owners in putting forward their best employees and coaching them through the application process, we've introduced a new award of £250 for the overall winner's line manager.
We will be inviting the five category winners to London to join us for a night out and a fantastic lunch at the palatial Dorchester Hotel, after which the judges will announce the winner of the convenience sector's top award for shop-floor staff.
On top of that, we'll put a handy £500 into the pocket of each finalist and there's an extra £500 for the overall winner.
Part of the fun of the awards is that they bring together the top brass of some of the leading suppliers with the frontline troops. We're grateful for the support of our sponsors, who recognise how important a role customer-facing staff play in making c-stores the friendly face of retail.
"They are the ones getting up early to accept deliveries; the ones helping customers find the products they want; and also the ones who pass on ranging suggestions to management," says P&G trade communications manager Paul Lettice. "Without them, the c-store market would not be the vibrant channel that it is."
Jeremy Blackburn, Gallaher head of communications, says the company is keen to be involved in the awards because they reward the staff on the shop floor "and the vital role that they play".
That sentiment is echoed by Andy Foweather, sales director of General Mills. "Their efforts are fully appreciated by suppliers like us, because we know the contribution they can make to the success of our brands. They are the ones who go above and beyond the call of duty to create an environment that shoppers want to return to time after time."
And Bep Sandhu, trade relations manager at Mars, adds: "Forward- thinking stores understand that it is professional, efficient customer service that will give them the edge in today's tough retail marketplace."
Entries need to be with us by September 1, so get to work on those humble heroes of the aisles. It's their time to shine.
What the sponsors say:
"Gallaher, part of the JTI Group, is once again delighted to be involved in the Sales Assistant of the Year Awards which are dedicated to recognising and rewarding the people on the shop floor and the vital role that they play."
"General Mills recognises the valuable role played by sales assistants in improving the retail experience for millions of shoppers every day. We are delighted to be associated with the Sales Assistant of the Year Awards for a second year."
"Convenience retailers have worked tirelessly over the past year to raise standards of customer service. Mars is proud to sponsor the Sales Assistant of the Year Awards as part of its commitment to recognising the work that c-store staff do every day."
"P&G is genuinely delighted to once again support the Sales Assistant of the Year Awards. These awards are one of the most enjoyable and rewarding because they recognise one of the most important elements of any store - the staff."