More than 200 retailers, their friends and family and their teams partied the night away at the Claudeland Event Centre.
Host Lisa O'Neill entertained the crowd with anecdotes from her days working in retail for her family's sports gear store, and aired some cringeworthy experiences she'd had as a shopper more recently. Stand-out personalities from O'Neill's stories included the icecream vendor who communicated only by moving her chin; the magazine-reading saleswoman who refused to let O'Neill try on a pair of shoes without a guarantee of purchase; and the saleswoman's husband, who made it clear that he felt this was acceptable.
Ashley Brunel from Liquorking Horsham won the hotly-contested Service IQ Retail Professional of the Year Award, Central North Island, for the second time in a row, beating runner up TJ Houltram from Florist Ilene. When called to the stage, he said the award was a testament to the standard set by those around him, praising his team, wife and family for pushing and motivating him to succeed.
Furnish, of Tauranga, also provided a bit of excitement by scooping up both the Retail NZ award for Small/Single Store and the Mastercard Single Store Omnichannel award.
The Overall Regional Supreme Award for the Central North Island, presented by .99 and NZME, went to Specsavers Gisborne. Retail NZ chief executive Mark Johnston says they were selected based on three rigorous rounds of judging, with two in-store assessments and a panel selection carried out.
“Judges who visited Specsavers Gisborne said that everything about the store was professional. The staff were friendly and made customers feel welcome and at ease, while providing trustworthy and high-quality advice.”
Tania Richards is a dispensing optician who runs the store with business partner Nick Whittingham, an optometrist. Richards put Specsavers Gisborne's success down to its focus on customer service.
“We concentrate a lot on customer service because it's the main way of impressing Gisborne people. We're particularly sensitive to customer service because it's what we can do best.”
Whittingham, who joined the team last year, says recent staff changes and a focus on training have also contributed. Specsavers Gisborne has built up the right group of people and personalities to work together, he says: “We've evolved into a tight-knit group.”
The pair wanted to single out two staff members for congratulations: Bridget Donnell, who is training to be a dispensing optician while raising two children, and Marie Phillips, a part-timer who is vitally important to the team.
Full list of the Central North Island winners:
Fashion & Footwear sponsored by The Register
Winner - Specsavers Gisborne
Runner Up - Barkers Garage Hamilton
Food & Beverage sponsored by Meridian
Winner - The Girl on the Swing (Hamilton)
Runner Up - Liquor King Horsham
Health & Beauty sponsored by Retail NZ
Winner - Indulgence Beauty & Day Spa (Matamata)
Runner Up - Waters Day Spa (Hamilton)
Home & Garden sponsored by Westpac
Winner - Brambles Boutique Florist (Tauranga)
Runner Up – Furnish (Tauranga)
Jewellery & Giftware sponsored by Union Pay
Winner - Acquisitions New Plymouth
Runner Up - Silvermoon Bayfair
Lifestyle & Sports sponsored by Spark Business
Winner - Rebel Sport New Plymouth
Runner Up - Hikoi Taupo
Technology & Electronics sponsored by Rightway
Winner - Spark Matamata
Runner Up - Spark Rotorua
Retail Professional sponsored by Service IQ
Winner - Ashley Brunel - Liquor King Horsham
Runner Up - TJ Houltram - Florist Ilene (Hamilton)
Small/Single-Store sponsored by Retail NZ
Winner – Furnish (Tauranga)
Runner Up - Florist Ilene (Hamilton)
Single-Store OmniChannel sponsored by Mastercard
Winner - Furnish (Tauranga)
Runner Up - The Design Depot (Hamilton)
National/Multi-Store sponsored by Visa
Winner - Cruiseabout Tauranga
Runner Up - Warehouse Stationery The Base
Multi-Store OmniChannel sponsored by Z Energy
Winner - Warehouse Stationery The Base
Runner Up - Bike Barn Taupo
People’s Choice sponsored by The Hits
Winner - Pinky's Bargains (Whitianga)
Runner Up - The Girl on the Swing (Hamilton)
Regional Overall Winner sponsored by.99 & NZME
Winner - Specsavers Gisborne
Runner Up - Spark Matamata