The 12 months since I won Sales Assistant of the Year 2014 have been, quite simply, incredible. My role at Eldred Drive Stores has changed and I've taken on a new management role, which has seen me speak at industry events and involve myself in things which concern the future of the industry as a whole, and not just our store. Last week, for example, I attended the Association of Convenience Stores' Heart of the Community conference, where I met retailers along with MPs to discuss issues such as plain packaging, the National Living Wage and business rates. It's important to be involved in things like this as in a few years my husband and I plan to take over the store when my boss and store owner Raju retires.
I already have plans for new lines we can introduce to help build the business up further, and a few months back I added a gardening range, which has proved popular with elderly shoppers.
Maintaining the solid relationships that I've built up with our local shoppers will remain at the heart of all future plans, though, as it's that which really makes the difference. If plans to allow large stores to open on Sundays get the go-ahead, small shops will need to play to their strengths and take more care to nurture the relationships they have forged with local shoppers.
The c-store industry might be facing a period of challenge, but the role of the sales assistant will remain the same - to be the face of the business: reliable, responsible and, above all, welcoming.
I wish this year's contenders for Sales Assistant of the Year 2015 every success, and I hope they enjoy the experience as much as I did.