BRITAIN’S grocery industry saluted the UK’s army of hard-working, enterprising independent retailers at the Asian Trader Awards last week.

Around 900 guests celebrated the achievements of the country’s top shopkeepers at London’s Westminster Park Plaza hotel last Wednesday (6).

The 30th anniversary of the awards, which were launched in 1989, marked three decades of Asian Trader recognising Britain’s best independent retailers.

Comedian Rory Bremner compered the evening, keeping it topical with impressions of prime minister Boris Johnson and US president Donald Trump.

Mital Morar of Ancoats General Store, Manchester, was named Asian Trader of the Year, the grocery industry’s highest honour.

The Asian Trader Awards judges said: “Mital’s store has a long chipboard table stretching from the entrance to the coffee counter. Customers can enjoy a selection of drinks, from traditional choices like espressos and smoothies to cortados and charcoal lattes. The table encourages people to stay for longer and while they are there, they are looking at what else they can buy. He advertises through social media, reaching over 18,000 followers.”

After receiving the award, Morar told Asian Trader, a sister publication of Eastern Eye: “Goodness knows how, but somehow I have won Asian Trader of the Year. It feels amazing. I think everyone should take part in retailing and give it a go for themselves.”

In a welcoming speech, Asian Trader brand champion Shefali Solanki said retail crime was “an issue that plagued the sector in the past and still continues to.”

This year has been a particularly challenging one, with total retail crime estimated to cost the sector around £4 billion.

Shefali Solanki

Asian Trader has reported on tragic stories of retailers who have lost their lives or suffered lifethreatening injuries trying to protect their shop and families.

These include the shopkeeper who was stabbed to death in Pinner, west London, earlier this year, and the gangs who raided ATMs in the West Midlands, to the retailer who was held up at gunpoint while his store was robbed in Southampton.

“Both national and local government, together with law enforcement around the country, have a major part to play in tackling this issue,” Solanki added.

“We implore them to work with the sector to create a safer environment for you to continue doing the amazing work you do in your communities.”

Seven other retailers besides Mital were awarded for the quality of their stores.

HT Drinks, one of the UK’s leading specialist wholesalers serving 12,000 retailers nationwide, won the Wholesale Depot of the Year award.

Suppliers were recognised for their achievement in introducing some of the most ground-breaking new products into the market over the last 12 months.

Special awards were handed out to the Supplier of the Year, from the best wine and spirits suppliers to the convenience channel.

Colin Graves, chair of Wholesale and Franchise Advisory Board, Co-op, was presented with the Editor’s Award for his 50 years of service to the grocery industry, which has included his formation of the Costcutter symbol group.