It was emerald smiles all round at the St Patrick’s-themed Convenience Retail Awards in London last week.

The cream of the convenience retail sector partied into the early hours after the awards. Held on St Patrick’s Day, revellers were treated to a night of Celtic-themed entertainment with Irish dancers, and a fiddler providing the music, while Douwe Egberts and Jameson ensured that the Irish coffees and whiskey highballs were in full flow.

And while there was plenty of craic to be had, no one was in higher spirits than Scott Graham, owner of Convenience Retailer of the Year McLeish Inverurie, an independent, which also won Best Small Store. “I’m delighted for my wife and I, it’s a family business, and I’m delighted for the team at McLeish,” he said. “I think we won because we’re a bit different to the standard c-store. We promote local wherever we can and fresh is a huge part of our offering. We’re just 1,500 sq ft and we’ve shown what you can do in that small space.”

Another retailer who could barely contain his excitement was Derek Ritchie, who owns Best Large Store winner Costcutter Ellon in Aberdeenshire. “This award means everything to me and is testament to the hard work of my staff and the support of the community.

“This year we have a few things planned to attract more young people to the store, and this award has given us the confidence to move forward.”

It was a good night for Costcutter, with Costcutter Farnworth owner Baz Jethwa equally elated when his shop was awarded Best Independent Store. “It feels amazing to have won; it’s a really proud moment for us. Just to have been nominated alongside the other fantastic nominees was a massive privilege. I put it down to the hard work by all of our staff, along with the support from the Costcutter Group.”

There was plenty of cause to celebrate for the Welcome, Marchwood team, when the Sourthern Co-operative franchise outlet picked up Best Multiple Store. “I’m on cloud nine,” said owner Richard Dance. “It’s been such a fantastic experience. I’m so pleased for the team at Marchwood; they’ll be so happy with the award. It’s been a really good night; it’s been great to meet other retailers and hear their stories.

The winners

Convenience Retailer of the Year: McLeish Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Best Small Store: McLeish Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Best Large Store: Costcutter Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Best Independent Store: Costcutter Farnworth, Bolton

Best Multiple Store: Co-op Welcome, Marchwood, Hampshire

Convenience Retailer of the Year & Best Small Store

CRA best small store mcleish

McLeish Inverurie, Aberdeenshire

Store owner: Scott Graham

Weekly turnover is up 13% year-on-year to £30,000 thanks to Scott’s ability to cater the store to his customers’ needs. The store has embraced food to go, which represents 15% of the business, with 200 sandwiches, 60 rolls, 40 wraps and 50 salad boxes made on-site daily, in addition to a plethora of hot dishes. Half of all the store’s products are local, but Scott also makes a big effort to work with suppliers in order to boost sales and add theatre to the store. The judges were bowled over by how much the store had managed to achieve within a relatively confined space of 1,500sq ft.

Best Multiple Store

CRA best multiple

Co-op Welcome, Marchwood, Hampshire

Store owner: Richard Dance

A major refit has seen Co-op franchise store Welcome, Marchwood go from strength to strength. Sales are up across ambient, fresh and chilled thanks to a series of changes, including moving fruit and veg to the front of the store, and doubling the chilled space to 32m. But it isn’t just the store that caught the judges’ attention; the shop’s approach to customer service has also had an overhaul, with Richard’s wife Karen refocusing the team on the importance of learning from one another. Staff now regularly analyse each others’ performance and even organise pizza and laptop evenings to keep up-to-date on e-learning modules.

Best Independent Store

CRA best independent

Costcutter Farnworth, Bolton

Owner: Baz Jethwa

It was the ambition of Baz’s recent store investment that won over judges. Sales are up an impressive 20% year-on-year as a result of Baz taking the plunge and pouring £400,000 into a refit. An in-store bakery, energy efficient technology, revitalized off licence, and buzzing food-to-go offering have taken the store to the next level. The judges claimed that Baz had struck the perfect balance of value and specialist options, with a wide range of Costcutter own brand lines as well as an exciting mix of local produce. The store also regularly raises money for and donates products to local causes.

Best Large Store

CRA best large store

Costcutter Ellon, Aberdeenshire

Store Owner: Derek Ritchie

Customers at Costcutter Ellon are certainly spoilt for choice. The store has a butchery counter stocked with beef sourced from a nearby farm and sausages and burgers made in-store, which gives it a strong point of difference from key competitors. The outlet also boasts an off-licence department heaving with malt whiskys and craft gins. It is the store’s commitment to local products that enthralled the judges. The team’s dedication to the local community also made it stand out from the crowd, especially in the face of a series of challenges in recent years, which would have defeated some retailers.