A nationwide competition to celebrate the pride and commitment of people working in physical stores during Covid has announced its overall winner today (23rd August): The Co-op Food Store in Hornchurch, Romford.
The top Proud of My Store prize was scooped by manager Claire Saunders (pictured) and her team for their story of triumph over adversity, using team work and the power of positive thinking to turn one of their toughest years into an incredible force for good in the local community.
Having witnessed the rising number of local people who were struggling financially during the pandemic, they founded a clothing bank to recycle and redistribute donated clothing between families, tapping into people’s desire to help each other during Covid.
The initiative was so successful that it blossomed into an official charity: The Baby Bank HQ, which now supports families with clothes, toiletries and basic necessities for children up to primary school age in five London Boroughs.
And Claire isn’t stopping there. The Baby Bank HQ has spread out with the Co-op to gain support from Tesco, as part of a bigger drive to help the 700,000 children estimated to be living in poverty in London.
Proud of My Store was founded by the customer interaction management specialists Critizr. Running from April to July this year, over 160 stores from across the UK submitted entries to tell stories of retail staff going the extra mile and taking real pride in their store’s value to customers and communities.
Claire’s story was crowned the winner by the competition’s prestigious panel of industry experts which included Critizr team members and Helen Dickinson OBE, Chief Executive of the British Retail Consortium; Antony Hawman, Co-founder & CPO at TheIndustry.fashion; and Steve Collinge from Insight DIY.
The judges also gave a special commendation to New Look in Banbridge, Northern Ireland, whose entry told of exemplary customer service to ensure the store was a place of safety and comfort for a young transitioning customer.
Two additional entries were shortlisted as monthly winners alongside the Co-op and New Look, winning a donation to their local charity and treats for their team.
- The Cakery in Leamington Spa who saved their business during lockdown by opening a ‘cake hatch’ pick up service and an online shop, as well as donating cakes to community groups.
- Nisa Local in Bolton who turned lockdown into an opportunity to refurbish their store to create a broader and better in-store experience for customers.
On being told about her win – which included a prize hamper to share with her staff and a £300 donation to the store’s chosen charity, MIND – Claire commented: ‘This is absolutely brilliant! Everyone has worked so hard and gone above and beyond to support each other and our local community. The whole team has been providing exceptional customer service day in, day out even though they sometimes worried for their safety after our store was targeted by a gang. Our team is very diverse, we have all ages working here, but everyone works together and that’s why it’s a lovely store. I know they will be so happy about winning this award. I’m proud of leading by example with my positivity and seeing the team adopt this mindset and continue this approach.’
Hazel Morton, Head of Growth Marketing at Critizr added: ‘All of our monthly winners provided the judges with inspiring examples of store teams who achieved incredible things during the pandemic, whether that meant going the extra mile for customers, being resilient in the face of lockdown or being a force for good in their communities. Claire and her team at the Co-op really shone through as our overall winners. The fact that their positive mindset brought benefit to so many vulnerable families and a legacy that will outlive the pandemic, all at a time when they were facing huge challenges from gangs at the store, really impressed. Thanks go to all retailers who took the time to enter and to our judges who had the hard task of picking our ‘proudest store 2021.’
To find our more about Claire’s work and the charity go to https://www.thebabybankhq.org/