Kathryn Hollingsworth, Post Office Retail Engagement Manager, was a judge for the March 2019 Scottish Grocer Awards and will also be on the judging panel for some Post Office Retail Awards categories. Nominations for the Post Office Retail Awards close on Thursday 11 April, get your entry in before then to secure your spot. You can find the entry forms here.
So Kathryn, what have you been doing recently in the world of retail awards?
“In January, I spent two fascinating days travelling across Scotland with Matthew Lynas, Editor of Scottish Grocer magazine, and David Lonsdale, Director of the Scottish Retail Consortium, visiting branches shortlisted for the Post Office category of the Scottish Grocer Awards. “
Why is visiting branches important?
With a strong shortlist, judging can’t just be paper-based. Visits are essential so judges can draw distinctions between branches, by having a proper look around.
Retailers will often give us additional information when we meet in person, for example, about inviting school children to visit the branch at Christmas, community events they support, or how they visit local businesses to promote services - things they didn’t mention in their entry. They should, we love having real examples!
A visit also means we can see how well the retailer integrates the two parts of their business, see the customers coming into the store, what they’re buying, and what the welcome is like.
What do you look for, as award judges?
For the Scottish Grocer awards, we were looking for “excellent provision of Post Office services, in a business that also provides a well-run thriving local store”
As the Post Office rep on the judging panel, I like observing how staff interact with their customers and having a detailed look at every aspect of the customer experience. I am particularly keen on high branch standards, and amongst other things, I don’t want to see handmade signs, empty leaflet holders or anything blocking customer access to the counter or in the aisles.
I ask questions on staff training, promoting Post Office services to local businesses, their use of social media - and whether they use Post Office marketing material, maintaining customer service standards across the team and about any customers who need extra help. The retailers are probably glad when I finally leave them in peace!
David Lonsdale of the Scottish Retail Consotium, added: “The industry should be rightly proud of those nominated. Especially the winners, who exemplify the very best aspects of running a Post Office and being an integral part of the local community.”
“Being part of the judging panel is a great experience and hugely motivating. Talking to the owners and seeing customers being served generates an instant, uplifting vibe and its clear which nominees are extra special, especially when I asked ‘what would winning mean for you?’”
So how did you choose the winner?
Kathryn: “After each visit David, Matthew and I shared observations, and in a couple of cases had quite a lively discussion.
“For the final judging, we each brought completed score sheets, our notes and photographs. Matthew and David had more of an eye for the retail side of the business, but no matter how great the store, unless the Post Office was 99.9% excellent then “it was a ‘no’ from me”. Being really ruthless helped whittle the shortlist down to three, but the most difficult task was deciding the overall winner from such high scoring finalists.
“Biggar Post Office is extremely successful, out-performing large city centre branches; the Post Office is not an add-on, it’s integral to their business and brings in social and business customers from a wide area. Donna and Bruce Morgan have created a superb store that works for their community. The energy and enthusiasm they devote to their business, which is open 365 days of the year, is breath-taking. In the end it was their exceptional commitment which clinched it.”
Read about their win here.
Kathryn will next be using her expertise on the judge’s panel for several of the categories at the 2019 Post Office Retail Awards. Get the edge - read her tips on how to write a winning entry.