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The Drapers Awards shortlist announced

As Drapers unveils the shortlist for its annual awards this week, retailers explain the benefits of holding up a trophy and how it has boosted their business.

Holding aloft a shiny trophy in front of cheering peers provides precious moments of self-satisfaction, but retailers can also reap long-term benefits by winning coveted industry awards.

As Drapers unveils the shortlist of its annual awards this year, nominees and winners will be able to convert their successes on the night into sustained marketing campaigns, developing their business strategies and building team morale.

Mark Bage, owner of independent womenswear retailer Sarah Coggles, which scored a hat-trick at last year’s Drapers Awards when it won Independent of the Year, Womenswear Retailer of the Year and Designer Store of the Year, says the benefits of winning awards are primarily internal. “When you enter awards it forces you to look at your business through the eyes of the judges,” he explains. “It allows you to see what your business is lacking and what you should do to correct it.”

But Bage urges retailers not to be complacent. “Winning awards can be a bit of a double-edged sword. You get recognition from your peers, which in turn makes them try harder. So the standards are raised again.”

However, he adds that the rewards can be external too, particularly in terms of attracting new customers. “As a marketing tool, alerting customers who may not know who you are of the fact that you’ve won an award gives them confidence in you.”

In June, Coggles.com, Sarah Coggles’ transactional website, racked up £1million of sales in its first year of trading, with a profit of £106,000. The sum was 69% ahead of Bage’s forecast – he has since revised his 2008 sales prediction to £1.5million.

Pat O’Flaherty, founder of Edinburgh-based indie Xile, which won Young Fashion Retailer of the Year at 2007’s Drapers Awards, believes that being an award winner provides indies with huge marketing opportunities.

“It is great to get a pat on the back from your peers, but in the long term you have to take advantage of the commercial gains,” he says. “Last year, we got a lot of press in Scotland about winning the Drapers award. We advertise the fact on our bags, the website and in store. It’s a great add-on to your marketing campaign.”

Last month, O’Flaherty opened Xile’s third G-Star franchise in Glasgow. The young fashion indie has G-Star and Replay franchise stores in Edinburgh and another G-Star store in Aberdeen, with plans for further expansion in Scotland. Xile’s website, which has been operating for a year, is expected to turn over £1m by the end of 2008.

For multiple retailers, winning awards allows them to attract the best talent in the industry. Josie Cartridge, marketing manager of Sainsbury’s Tu, which won Drapers’ Value Retailer of the Year Award in 2006, says: “The awards not only build the profile and credibility of Tu within the industry, but also build morale. An award attracts new recruits and is a great endorsement with the fashion press.”

Hash Ladha, marketing and operations director of Asos, winner of the Drapers’ Etailer of the Year Award in 2006, says Asos enters awards to gain third-party credibility. “Everything we do at Asos always puts the customer at the heart of our decision-making process,” he explains. “We are very proud when we win awards, both those voted for by consumers or industry recognition, as it is a great accolade for the hard work and commitment of our teams.”

New businesses can also benefit from third-party endorsement. Fiona McLean, co-owner of Scottish lingerie independent Boudiche, which picked up the Lingerie Retailer of the Year prize at last year’s Awards, says new businesses can cement their place in the industry by winning awards.

“For emerging businesses, entering awards can boost their credibility, especially when the award judges a company based on its strategy and business acumen,” she says. “Winning awards can also raise awareness among investors.”

Boudiche, which has won three industry awards including being recognised at the Scottish Retail Excellence Awards since it debuted in 2005, opened its second store this year in Glasgow.

Newcastle womenswear indie, Havetolove, winner of the Best New Business category at last year’s Drapers Awards, says the recognition helped it to form commercial partnerships with local businesses, including hotel chain Malmaison and car manufacturer Aston Martin. Owner Kate Walton says she has since been “inundated with calls” from brands keen to be stocked at the store.

With less than two months to go before the Drapers Awards 2008, shortlisted businesses can already start to make the most of the recognition. Our judges will be visiting the nominees in the next few weeks.

See the Pdf in the resources column (right) for the full shortlist for the awards.

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