Cornish couple Chris & Sue Sharrinton scoop the top prize in this year's Top Shop of the Year Awards

The stars in convenience retailing took to the stage last week in
a sparkling celebration of the industry's best retailers, but it was Chris and Sue Sharrinton of Spar Helston in Cornwall who stole the show and walked away with the coveted Top Shop of the Year trophy.
The husband and wife team have fought hard to turn around their business, which had seen trade falling before they took the decision to invest a large sum in a store extension and refit. The pair were delighted to win the big prize. "We're totally shocked - we didn't expect it at all," said Sue. "We're so pleased. After all our hard work it's the cream on top and makes it all worthwhile; it's amazing."
Chris added: "We're ecstatic and flabbergasted. It's a combination of a lot of hard work by our staff, Sue and myself. This award is the icing on the cake. It's nice to get recognition from the industry that what we are trying to do is right. We've learnt a lot in the past year and we are willing to share that with everyone else in the industry.
"It's very much a team effort and we couldn't do it without our staff. We have the ideas, but it's the staff who put them into practice. This award isn't just for Sue and I, it's for the whole shop. We must not forget the help from Spar UK and our wholesalers as well for allowing us to experiment for the good of all retailers in the independent sector."
The awards are run and organised by Convenience Store in association with The Grocer and sponsored by ADT, Cadbury Trebor Bassett, Camelot, Constellation Europe, Country Choice, Imperial Tobacco, Müller Tropicana, Premier Foods, Procter & Gamble and Torex Retail. They were presented in the grand surroundings of the Marriott Hotel Grosvenor Square in London's West End last week. The event was attended by retailers, suppliers and key industry figures, and BBC Breakfast show journalist and star of Strictly Come Dancing Bill Turnbull led the proceedings with the help of Capital Radio DJ James Cannon on the voice-over.
The title of Best Village Store was won by Alec Gardner of East Bergholt Post Office & Stores in East Bergholt, Suffolk. Alex is no stranger to Top Shop - last year he won the Lifetime Achievement award. "It's just wonderful - to win the Lifetime Achievement award last year and then this," said a delighted Alec. "It's very much a team effort and we come here to represent the team - we're here on their behalf. Our staff are everything to us and we couldn't do it without them. I also couldn't do it without my wife, who puts up with me disappearing at all hours. I can't say much more than that."
Brothers Alpesh and Bimal Patel, who run the Londis store in Finsbury Park, London, scooped the Best Town Store accolade. "It's been a great night," said Alpesh. "After 30 years of hard work, working all the hours under the sun, seven days a week, this really is the icing on the cake and a true acknowledgement of our work in partnership with MBL.
"Our team of staff is our greatest asset, and without them we wouldn't be here now. We'd also like to say thank you to everyone at MBL - especially our regional sales managers who are the eyes and ears as to what is going on outside our own business."
Moving on to this year's special awards, the Lifetime Achievement award went to Harry Newton of Costcutter in Macclesfield. Harry was hailed as a tremendous champion of the independent sector and an exceptional retailer with a long career in convenience retailing.
Shadow Minister for Business and Enterprise, Mark Prisk MP, presented the Zero Tolerance Award for Crime Prevention to Lesley Brown, Frankmarsh Stores in Barnstaple, Devon, for her No ID No Sale campaign and in-store police surgeries. Prisk gave his backing to the Zero Tolerance campaign and expressed his support for a zero tolerance approach to retail crime.
Top Shop's new special awards for 2007 - Best Wholesale Initiative and Product of the Year - went to Landmark Wholesale for its Hot House project, and Magners Cider. See page 20 for more details on all of the special awards.
It wasn't all prize-giving, though. The audience was treated to an after-dinner cabaret with comedian Milton Jones, and a casino and disco after the awards. Roll on next year.

Winners - at a glance

Top shop of the Year:

Chris & Sue Sharrinton, Spar Helston, Cornwall

best Village Store:

Alec Gardner, East Bergholt Post Office & Stores, East Bergholt, Suffolk

best Neighbourhood Store:

Chris & Sue Sharrinton, Spar Helston, Cornwall

best Town Store:

Alpesh & Bimal Patel, Londis, Finsbury Park, London

Independent Village Store:

Dean Holborn, Holborn's, South Nutfield, Surrey

Independent Symbol Village Store:

Alec Gardner, East Bergholt Post Office & Stores, Suffolk

Multiple Village Store:

Dianne Hepburn, Tates/Spar, Blakeney, Norfolk

Independent Neighbourhood Store:

Nick Cooper, Hudson's, Wandsworth, London

Independent Symbol Neighbourhood Store:

Chris & Sue Sharrinton, Spar Helston, Cornwall

Multiple Neighbourhood Store:

Wendy Simpson, Spar Stakesby, Whitby, North Yorkshire

Independent Symbol Town Store:

Alpesh & Bimal Patel, Londis, Finsbury Park, London

Multiple Town Store:

Alex Kirke, City Store/Leeds Co-op, Leeds

Special Awards

Lifetime Achievement:

Harry Newton, Costcutter, Macclesfield

Wholesaler Business Initiative of the Year:

Landmark Wholesale

Product of the Year:

Magners Cider

Convenience Store Zero Tolerance Award for Crime Prevention:

Lesley & Bill Brown, Frankmarsh Stores, Barnstaple, Devon

Specialist categories

Best ambient grocery display:

Laurie Curren, Vivo 12th Milestone, Templepatrick, Northern Ireland

Best chilled products display:

David Jones, Spar Arundel Avenue, Stockport, Cheshire

Best confectionery presentation:

Niall Creighton, Creightons of Finaghy, Belfast

Best food to go offer:

Janet Walsh, Botterills Spar, Kirkmuirhill, Lanarkshire

Best laundry & homecare products display:

Keshu Odedra, Hallmark Foods, Burnham, Buckinghamshire

Best National Lottery store:

Jeanette Cragg, Spar Cambridge Road, Southport, Merseyside

Best use of technology:

Muyuar Sedani, News R Us, Derby

Best tobacco merchandising:

Humraj Athwal, Athwals Spar Bottesford, North Lincolnshire

Wine retailer of the year:

Mark Johnson, Celebrations Off Licence, Stockport, Cheshire