'This award isn't ours, it's the staff's': Two Northampton shops among top 100 independent retailers in UK
Proud moment for shopkeepers after a year like no other
Two Northampton shops have been named in the top 100 independent retailers in the UK after a comprehensive assessment.
Jimmy's Store in Kingsthorpe Road and Market Square Newsagents were among the Independent Achievers Academy's (IAA) best 100 stores.
The list was announced at the end of April following rigorous, independent store assessments and video interviews in March after each retailer submitted an application.
Jimmy's owner Jimmy Patel said: "We enter it most years but we didn't do it last year because of the pandemic.
"But we did it this year for the recognition for the staff as everyone has worked really hard over the last year."
Jimmy has been running his store in Semilong for almost 25 years but counts the past 14 months as the toughest of his career because of coronavirus.
Dealing with increased demand when people started panic-buying at the bigger supermarkets to masks, social distancing, deliveries to the vulnerable and more cleaning have contributed to a stressful year.
But he credited his staff for their dedication to serving customers and said the achievement of being named in the best 100 in the country was all down to them.
"It's been crazy, it's been tough, there have been trials and tribulations and I don't think we're out of it yet - but this award isn't ours, it's the staff's."
Andrew Cruden, who runs Market Square Newsagents, was similarly proud of his employees who have worked tirelessly throughout the pandemic.
This was the second time the Mercers Row retailer has entered the IAA's benchmarking having not made the cut in 2019 so he was delighted to be awarded this time around.
"We reviewed where we let ourselves down and improved on that and they have recognised that which is great," he said.
"So I'm really proud of the staff and everybody because it's been a joint effort."
Andrew believes customers have an even greater appreciation for his shop and other independent retailers from the pandemic as they have been a lifeline for so many.
He also refused to put up prices when demand for essentials like toilet roll and hand sanitiser was high at the beginning, which has paid off with more loyal customers.
"Covid has also brought us retailers closer as we've helped each other a lot like if one gets a deal then they will let the others know," he said.