Top notch shops set sights on top Top Shops

The New Zealand Retailers Association is calling for entries from stores in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington for the 2010 Top Shop competition, widely regarded as New Zealand’s leading retail excellence awards. And the comp has returned this year with two new categories (online retailing and sustainable retailing), some new sponsors and a burgeoning sense of optimism in the Kiwi retail sector.

“With so much emphasis on discounting as the tool of choice for many stores in the last twelve months, the association is keen to encourage retailers to look at alternative ways to get the optimum share of the consumer dollar,” says John Albertson, retailers association chief executive. “And one of the ways is to stand above and beyond their peers on customer service. We know that customer service is much more difficult to measure, but by entering the Top Shop competition and undergoing the mandatory mystery shop that goes along with it, we believe the resulting report will indicate to retailers whether their staff are meeting the needs of their customers better than the competitor down the road.”

Once again, he says it’s all about doing the basics well, but also offering something extra to keep the customers coming back. And impress that dastardly mystery shopper.

More than half of the owners contacted about the competition in 2008 chose to take part and more than three quarters of Auckland 2008 entrants said they would take part again in 2010 (you can check out the seven different categories here and enter here). In Auckland, the awards are now in their 22nd year and, not surprisingly, taking a gong is a powerful marketing tool that’s used to increase customer numbers and create a point of difference.

Rae and Ben Lightfoot, the owners of Bay Bee Cino in Newmarket, say winning an award in the fashion, footwear and accessories category in 2008 just nine months after opening significantly boosted brand awareness and cemented its position as a leading baby and maternity boutique. And, as it was awarded just as the recession kicked in, the pair have no doubt it contributed to its survival during this tough time in retail.

Perhaps a little surprisingly, the overall winner of the Auckland 2008 awards was New World Supermarket in Albany with their unique selling proposition being “to provide a unique shopping experience which excels expectations in quality, service and produce in a family environment for customers and team members”.

Top Shop is open to all retailers (presumably including the new Top Shop) and entries for the Auckland regional awards close on 9 July. The Christchurch comp closes on 25 June, Wellington on 2 July and Waikato, which opens on 24 May, closes on 16 July).

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