I have worked in the retail industry for 35 years and there is still one thing that shocks me.
The amount of businesses - be they retailers, manufacturers or suppliers - who don’t enter their industry awards is shocking. For me, wherever you are in the supply chain, entering awards is a great way to raise the profile of your products and brand whilst getting your offering under the noses of the right people.
Awards organisers work really hard to get an esteemed panel of industry experts to be a part of their panel, thanks in part to their influence on the market, knowledge and profile. How often would you have a free opportunity to get your products evaluated as part of a curated group of buyers?
Whilst you’re impressing buyers involved in the awards itself, the additional credibility a product gains from being a finalist or winner increases its appeal to other potential stockists.
For retailers, viewing products in a judging setting can be helpful because it narrows down your field of vision to new products, often from suppliers you’d simply walk past at a show.
From a personal point of view when I am a judge across the cards, gifts and stationery industry, it is very common for me (and others) to note down what they see whilst judging, before following up on relevant stands or contacting the suppliers about products of interest.
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 entrance to the show.
In 2017, the London Stationery Show set a new competition called Launchpad – hoping to sky rocket existing businesses opportunities on the back of their attendance at the show.
Aimed at new businesses who have not exhibited at the Stationery Show before, Launchpad’s eight winners get the opportunity to have a stand at the show for free - a great opportunity that could have been otherwise unaffordable.
Some examples of people who won Launchpad include Bloom, a Dutch greeting card company who entered the competition as part of their UK launch strategy. Having won a stand in 2019, they are now taking orders every week from UK companies as a result. What an incredible way to enter a new market!
From 2019, Cardshit were another winner of Launchpad who gained three strong leads from national retailers at the show, one of whom has ordered already - definitely a case of great product, in the right place at the right time!!
Whilst the London Stationery Show’s opportunities continue to open doors for retailer, entrants for the Giftware Association’s Gift of the Year allow manufacturers showcase their products on the GOTY website from the date the entries open for a full twelve months until the same time the following year. Imagine it; a virtual showroom open to any retailer to view whenever or wherever they wish.
The Handcrafted Card Company won the card category at GOTY in 2019. As part of their launch strategy, they enter awards regularly and it’s clearly paid off for them in the last twelve months, receiving orders for their award-winning range immediately after winning the prize, from both existing and new customers whilst partnering with a new distributor to upscale their business.
There two award models are great but, of course, every award works differently. Judges at the Henries Greeting Cards awards judge the categories not knowing who the publishers are, but are able to request information on publishers of specific cards they liked after the event.
Cinnamon Aitch were winners of a 2018 Henrie Award and find that awards extend the marketing of their new ranges. Whilst there is no correlation between winning and orders, Cinnamon Aitch’s win has been mentioned by buyers they’ve spoken to and it gives them a really positive brand endorsement.
Whether it’s a Henri, a Launchpad award or something else you’re shortlisted for (or hopefully win), you’ll be guaranteed an appearance in exhibition brochures, websites, featured in listings in industry publications and more. So instantly, without minimal work, the visibility of your business and product becomes much more visible within your sector and the wider industry too – invaluable PR without any major outlay.
Whilst the entering the award is important, celebrating your win is important too. Ensure you share your win with existing customers, keeping your contact lines open and allowing them to feel connected to your business. An award win (or even a shortlisting) gives you an opportunity to re-engage with some former sales contacts – it might tempt them to place another order !!
There are a selection of awards that can work really well for retailers too. As the high-street is slowing and retail spend is considerably down, it is really important to create a point of difference for your business. Entering -and hopefully winning awards -can be a really good way of raising your profile, be they a local award or awards for your industry.
Not only is it a great shot in the arm for your business, it is a great morale booster for your team too.
Aga Gabrysiak, Owner of Highworth Emporium, won an award at the 2019 Greats said: “We all work really hard to make sure we have the right stock, nice selection of cards, attractive displays and a social media presence. Sometimes it can really tough and you often think that your efforts are going unnoticed. Being awarded with such a great prize has given us an immense dose of extra energy and pride.”
Following their win, Aga and the Highworth Emporium team have taken the opportunity to celebrate with customers, local press and trade press. We’re sure that the local media coverage they achieve will help them gain new customers in the future.
Business is getting more and more difficult for all of us so why wouldn’t you do something to help you stand out from your competitors? Entering awards is relatively quick and inexpensive but the benefits of being a finalist or winning can be significant. Surely, it’s a no brainer!
Ultimately, it’s time to reward your gold star efforts with an award of your own – who knows where it will lead?
It’s like great French footballer Zinedine Zidane once said: “It doesn't matter how many times you win an award, it is always very special.”