Friday 16th June was the big night…. I knew we had been shortlisted as a finalist in the Best Overall Retailer category and so were invited to the black-tie awards dinner at the Hix Academy in Weymouth College.
The venue was excellent. The Hix Academy is a training school for young hospitality trainees to get a feel for and experience of working at a busy restaurant, both in the kitchen and on the floor. The whole evening was catered for by students and the food was served to us by students. As a Hotel Management graduate in my younger years I can safely say that they did themselves proud putting on a great, 3 course meal. The wine for each table was provided by Furleigh Estate, Dorset’s own award winning vineyard just north of Bridport. Langham Estate, just south of Blandford also kindly provided a bottle of their finest bubbly for all the finalists! Each category was sponsored by a local business. The Best Overall Retailer was sponsored by Fleetline Taxis so Andy and Sarah from Fleetline joined us on the table along with the 2 other shortlisted businesses for the Retailer Award, Dorset Antique Clocks in Abbotsbury and Bathroom Inspirations in Dorchester.
It was a full house for the occasion with, at a guess over 150 local business men and women in the room. The evening progressed and the tension started to build on our table! Who was going to win?! All the trophies were laid out on the prize table waiting to be given to the winners of each category but none had the winner’s name, only the category name. As the meal started to wind-up we were treated to some entertainment from some more of the Weymouth College students and then it was time for the prize giving! Andy from Fleetline Taxis was asked up onto the stage to present the first award – Best Overall Retailer. The time had come and to my delight, we won!
Unbeknownst to me, the announcement and my subsequent reaction was being filmed by John who was also seated at our table with his wife Rosie. John works in the shop on Wednesday’s and covers my holiday time. He is an invaluable addition to the business so to have John and Rosie at the table was very important to me. Chris who also works in the shop wasn’t able to come but she was missed! The video is available on our Facebook page if you want to see how it all went!
As with so many exciting things in life, it all happened very quickly and seemed to be over before it had begun! Thankfully though there’s John’s video and a few snaps for me to remember the occasion. We’ve also got a lovely, glass trophy and certificate on display in the shop.
So where to from here?! Before I go any further, the contributions of John and Chris to the success of The Pet Experience are significant and I do feel that without their help over the years, we would not have won this award. So to them I say a heart-felt Thank-You! When I opened the shop 10 years ago on the Granby Estate I was a one-man-band doing everything myself. As the name of The Pet Experience grew and we became more popular, trade increased. I could handle it to a point but there comes a time when, in order to grow, you must develop a team around you. John came first to give me a day off and then Chris followed shortly after on a part-time basis, becoming full-time when we moved to our new premises at Link Park. I couldn’t do it without them!
My aim has always been to be best shop in town. Provide the best service, offer the widest range of products at the best prices and to have a bit of fun/chat with our customers in the process (we’ve even been known to bribe customers with pear drops at the till!) We’re always checking stock to ensure it is correctly rotated, priced, cleaned and displayed. I’m often away at trade shows looking for new stock lines and getting the best deals to provide you, our customers with the best possible prices. We’ll continue this and constantly look for further ways to improve.
Whilst I am delighted we won this award, don’t think we’ll be sitting on our laurels… To the contrary! This has just inspired me to aim even higher! The Dorset Echo Industry Awards are open to ANY business that fits into one of their categories so long as they have a DT postcode. So the Best Overall Retailer award really does mean a lot when you think of how many retailers there are in the DT area. But we can do even better and that’s what I intend to do. So watch this space customers and maybe one day soon you’ll be coming to buy your pet food in the UK’s best pet shop!
Thank you to all our customers, past & present for helping us to get where we are and we look forward to seeing you all again soon at Link Park!