The Retail and Leisure Awards, organised by The News, returned on Saturday night for their second year.
This year, more than 300 people packed into a glamorous bash at Portsmouth Guildhall, which saw a black-tie three-course dinner, followed by 10 awards and a dancefloor disco.
There was even fun to be had after the Guildhall lights went out – as the party carried on until the early hours at The Fleet and Popworld opposite.
The evening was hosted by BBC’s Nick Wallis. He said: ‘What an entirely brilliant event. To see so many people celebrating what they do in their careers was fantastic.
‘The retail and leisure industry is really hard work and people are not always celebrated by their bosses and colleagues, so to see them finally getting that recognition was great.’
Awards were handed out in a range of categories from Rising Star of the Year to Manager of the Year.
Success story Samantha Worsey, and husband John, won Independent Retailer of the Year and were runner-up in the New Retailer of the Year award with soap company Southsea Bathing Hut.
The business started in April last year after Samantha wanted to revive Portsmouth’s soap-making heritage.
John said: ‘It is brilliant. We have had so much support from the community. Our customers have been instrumental in every product we have created. Our business has grown by listening to what our customers want. To be recognised like this is wonderful – especially as we are such a young business.’
Samantha said: ‘We never expected this to happen. It is great for our confidence as a new small business.’
Another independent business that did well was Voluptuous Vintage, a vintage clothing shop in Alverstoke. The shop won New Retailer of the Year and was runner-up in Independent Retailer of the Year.
Jennifer Darling, who started the business 18 months ago, said: ‘We were runners-up last year so to win an award is really nice.
‘I am very excited and proud as the staff work really hard. They all believe in the brand and go out of their way to help people.’
Beals Estate Agent won the Community Contribution award for its work supporting various charities, schools and community projects.
Kerry Bryant, senior associate, said: ‘Our staff give their time for free and everyone puts a lot of energy in, but we like to do it to show that we care.’
Big name brands also walked away with awards. Frazer Goater, who has worked at Topman in Whiteley for three years, won Team Member of the Year.
The 24-year-old said: ‘I was not expecting it at all. It is amazing. Topman has been amazing in terms of progression. They have helped me to do so much.
‘I have always wanted a career in retail or clothing as it is my passion. Topman took me on and it has been great.’
Another worthy winner was Ola Ayeni, a security guard from Tesco in Whiteley.
His nomination was shared thousands of times on Facebook and hundreds of people commented on how he brightens their day. He won the Customer Service award, but could not make the ceremony so a special event is being planned to congratulate him when he returns to work.
His award was collected by Neil Carter. Whiteley Shopping Centre’s manager.
Neil said: ‘I’ve worked in retail for more than 20 years and I’ve never seen a response like we had for Ola. People in Whiteley love him.’
Also collecting an award from Whiteley Shopping Centre was Moss Bros, a formal suits and designer menswear store.
The store picked up Fashion Store of the Year.
Store manager Simon Warren said: ‘As a business we’ve really moved forward. Moss Bros used to be seen as an old-fashioned brand, but not any more. The product has moved on and so has the customer service. We have a great team in Whiteley and I am very proud of them.
‘These awards are fantastic, it is my first year here and I’ve seen how worthwhile they are. It is nice to be recognised. We all put so much hard work in and it is nice that it is acknowledged.’
Another Whiteley success was Rock Up! – a rock climbing facility – that won Leisure Venue of the Year. The award was collected by arena lead manager Steph Smith.
‘It is a huge thing to see all the hard work has paid off,’ she said. ‘Leisure Venue of the Year? Absolutely we are – this award is going on our shelf. We are so proud – massively proud.’
Dim T – a dim sum restaurant in Whiteley – also won Restaurant of the Year.
Non-Fashion Store of the Year went to Lush! – a handmade cosmetic store – in Cascades Shopping Centre.
Collecting the award was supervisor Chloe Cusse, and trainee manager Charlotte Pratley.
Chloe said: ‘It’s a really good night to support the local community and celebrate it, especially for the independent businesses.’
The night ended with the Manager of the Year award going to Rae Bryden, from Joules at Gunwharf Quays.
Collecting the award on her behalf were Camille Bennett, supervisor, and sales assistant Louisa Hall.
Camille said: ‘She deserves this more than anyone else I know. She is amazing.’
FIVE MAJOR SHOPPING CENTRES BATTLE IT OUT FOR TOP SPOTS
ALL five of the major shopping centres in The News’ area sponsored this year’s Retail and Leisure Awards.
Each centre submitted scores of entries and many made the final shortlists – with some taking top spot.
The sponsors were; Fareham Shopping Centre, Whiteley Shopping Centre, Meridian Shopping centre in Havant, Gunwharf Quays and Cascades Shopping Centre, in Portsmouth.
Event organiser Liz Parker said: ‘I really thank the sponsors from the bottom of my heart. These awards mean so much to so many, and without their support they would simply not have been possible.
‘I know there has been some friendly rivalry - but I hope they all see just how valuable awards like these are to the staff.’
Colin Wilding, centre manager at Gunwharf Quays, said: ‘It has been a great night and it was great to see all the runners-up and winners. A huge congratulations to them all.
‘Events like this just show how vibrant Portsmouth and the surroundings areas are in terms of retail and shopping centres.’
Neil Carter, centre manager at Whiteley Shopping Centre, said: ‘I am really pleased to see the amount and quality of all the entrants. It has been excellent and I can’t wait until next year already!’
ROLL OF HONOUR
NEW RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Voluptuous Vintage, Village Road, Alverstoke
Runner-up: Southsea Bathing Hut
RISING STAR/ TEAM MEMBER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Topman, Whiteley Shopping Centre – Frazer Goater
Runner-up: Whiteley Shopping Centre – Lisa MacGregor
BAR/RESTAURANT OF THE YEAR
Winner: Dim T, Whiteley Shopping Centre
Runner-up: Loch Fyne Seafood and Grill, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth
COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION OF THE YEAR
Winner: Beals Estate Agents & Surveyors LLP, Solent Way, Whiteley
CUSTOMER SERVICE AWARD
Winner: Tesco, Whiteley Shopping Centre – Ola Ayeni
Runner-up: Gunwharf Quays/Land Securities – guest relations team
FASHION STORE OF THE YEAR
Winner:Moss Bros, Whiteley Shopping Centre
Runner-up: Joules, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth
INDEPENDENT RETAILER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Southsea Bathing Hut
Runner-up: Voluptuous Vintage, Alverstoke
LEISURE VENUE OF THE YEAR
Winner: Rock Up, Whiteley Shopping Centre
NON FASHION STORE OF THE YEAR
Winner: Lush, Cascades Shopping Centre, Portsmouth
Runner-up: Thomson, Whiteley Shopping Centre
MANAGER OF THE YEAR
Winner: Joules, Gunwharf Quays, Portsmouth – Rae Bryden
Runner-up: Thomson, Whiteley Shopping Centre – Lizzie Whitcombe