I have worked in the retail industry for 30 years and I am still amazed by the number of businesses - be they retailers, card publishers, manufacturers or suppliers - who do not consider being involved in their industry’s awards because they don’t perceive the value of doing so.
In my role as a retail advisor one of the things I get asked most often by supplier’s is how to get their products in front of a retailer and then they recant various stories of emails not being answered, calls not being returned, letters and samples not being acknowledged. So why when it is so difficult to get a product seen would you not enter it into your Industry Awards if it fulfilled the criteria, particularly when entering most of them is free?
Awards organisers work really hard to get a good panel of buyers to judge their Awards and there will often be one or two of the buyers you have been trying to see and maybe a few others you hadn’t considered; for a period of time these judges will be evaluating the products in the given category so your products will be a point of focus.
When the awards are linked to a trade fair, I find the focus that is created around the entries is really helpful to me as a buyer. I judge many different awards across cards, gifts, and stationery, and it is very common for the judges - who are usually buyers as well - to note down all sorts of products they see while judging and then visit the relevant stands or contact the suppliers after the judging to follow up on products of interest. At Spring Fair, I met one fellow judge on 5 stands of products that had been entered in to the GOTY awards we had judged a few weeks earlier... They weren’t all winners but she, like me, felt they were relevant to her business and wanted to find out more!
There are often additional benefits to entering awards. For example, The Stationery Show gives entrants an opportunity to showcase their products to all visitors on the new product stand at the front of the hall. Many visitors to the show have learnt to use this as their starting point and certainly for someone only able to visit the show for an hour or so it would be a great way to find the one or two great products they need to make the visit worthwhile.
Entrants for the GA’s Gift of the Year have the opportunity to showcase their products on the GOTY website from the date the entries open until they open for the following year which is like a virtual showroom open to retailer members and non-members. In addition the winning and highly commended products are displayed on the GA stand through the year at major shows. Both of these forums are a great new product hunting ground for buyers!
Judges at the Henries Greeting Cards Awards judge the categories not knowing who the publishers are but once a category has been fully evaluated the judges are allowed to remove the sample cards to take a visual reminder of the cards they want to follow up on. For the judges that are buyers, it is a great way of finding new publishers particularly when you know quite clearly what you are missing, need or want to try in your range.
As an entrant, whichever awards you are shortlisted for or win you will be listed in winner’s brochures, on websites, featured in listings in industry publications etc etc - so instantly your business or product becomes much more visible within your sector and more widely within the industry too.
And of course there are retailer awards too, some of which are self-nominating and others where industry suppliers will put you forward for consideration. You could suggest that there is little value in these but having been a winner of RETAS (the greetings card industries retailer awards) when I was the card buyer at the National Trust, I know they have a hugely positive effect on both the head office and shop teams; to get industry recognition for what you are achieving makes everyone very proud. There is also a fantastic PR opportunity for businesses within the wider organisations or locality.
For me any reason to share a positive story with your customers, staff and other local businesses is worth taking. I believe awards are of huge value to businesses of all types and I will certainly continue to be involved in any way I can.