To the losers, awards are always cruel, and never more so than when individuals are singled out. If a company misses out, a collective sense of injustice — sometimes supplemented by alcohol — can unite a team. To the individual, no such comfort is afforded, with the sense of loss and failure all too literally personal.

So it must have seemed the morning after The Grocer Gold Awards this week, to Asda's Liz Hunt, Sainsbury's Andy Stanbridge, Tesco's Michael Cooke and Waitrose store manager Paul Reeley. These brave contestants, in front of a panel of scary judges, had performed brilliantly, answering tough questions and representing their stores and their companies superbly, in a competition to find The Grocer's first-ever Store Manager of the Year. But they had lost out to the eventual winner, Mike Toth, from Morrisons' Coventry store.

As one of the judges on that day, however, I can tell you it was awe-inspiring to witness the pride, the passion and the professionalism of all the contestants. It is hard to appreciate the difficulty in running a supermarket. Head Office provides plenty of support: product, promotions, planograms, as well as regular visits. But these are huge businesses — with annual sales in excess of £100m and 700 staff in one case — and listening to the presentations it quickly became apparent that the store managers are not merely overseeing a blueprint; they are entrepreneurs, trusted to act on their own instinct, making quick decisions, managing tricky customers and staff, fighting the system, local councils, trading restrictions, to win through for their customers and communities.

The competition to find the inaugural Store Manager of the Year was desperately close. And at the end of a long day, Toth was a deserving winner. But all five contestants were a credit to the companies they so bravely represented. A credit to British retail. A credit to themselves.