In June, I had the pleasure of being on the judging panel for Store Manager of the Year at The Grocer Gold Awards. I met the six shortlisted candidates, all of whom were nominated after winning The Grocer 33: Dave Curness from Sainsbury’s, Ade Ogbomoide from Aldi, Gary Ashton from Tesco, David Taylor from Asda, Jamie Wishart from Waitrose and Mike Jeavons from Morrisons.

Once out of the industry, it can be all too easy to forget the commitment, enthusiasm and dedication of the store manager and these six contenders exemplified those qualities.

BylineToday’s grocery industry isn’t the easiest to navigate. Consumers have shown themselves to be impatient, demanding and unpredictable, yet businesses have to adapt swiftly to meet and often exceed their expectations.

The store manager plays a pivotal role in whether a grocer executes this successfully when it comes to frontline customer experience.

Gary demonstrated that Tesco was the most strongly branded in what it is trying to achieve. Similarly, Jamie from Waitrose really extolled the values of the John Lewis Partnership. David from Asda brought to life the company’s development and plans for the future, while Ade, who has managed Aldi’s Catford store for 17 years and has seen it increase its turnover fivefold, encompassed the company’s attitude of growth and expansion.

That leaves Mike from Morrisons and Dave from Sainsbury’s, the latter of whom was the eventual winner. Their advantage was that they both had significant refits to manage in the year. Indeed, Dave’s refit for Sainsbury’s Redhill genuinely sounds like the refit from hell. These periods test the store manager’s resilience, and enables them to show their determination and talent in bringing together teams to drive results and customer satisfaction.

Both Mike and Dave seriously impressed with their teamwork skills and ability to positively influence the store employees. Dave’s passion, commitment and grasp of the detail just edged it.

With my new digital hat on, I was also pleased to hear some of the store managers exemplifying how to harness technology, in a further nod to the changing grocery landscape. They referenced consumer wi-fi as well as pulling real-time data from store apps and Google Plus as means of aiding communication in-store.

Getting to the heart of these candidates as individuals reminded me that the beauty of managing stores is that it’s often all about people. A good manager is fundamentally a people person, who thinks quickly, adapts successfully and puts their staff and customers at the centre of everything they do.

Tim Mason is CEO of Eagle Eye