Independent Retailer of the Year


Our Independent Retailer of the Year category is judged differently to other categories. The process is led by our judging partner, John Heagney Consulting, in conjunction with a team of retail experts, who visit each of the shortlisted stores.

Judging Partner 

John Heagney Consulting are delighted to have been again selected as the lead judging partner for the Independent Retailer of the Year. We continue to develop, strengthen and refine the selection process for the Independent Retailer of the Year each year, delivering a unique format with robust multi-stage assessment processes that ensures only the very best retailers are the winners.

The independent sector is vibrant and has a diverse group of retailers with differing strengths that are pushing the bar higher and higher each year and this is testament to the strength, innovative quality and entrepreneurial individuality of the stores that are entered into the awards. There is no doubt that in 2020 we will be assessing “the very best of the best” truly outstanding stores.

T he retail experts are led by John Heagney, an industry stalwart with extensive knowledge of the sector along with retail experts Jemima Bird, Guy Ousey, Mike Igoe and Nigel Gray. Each of these experts has a tremendous depth of knowledge and passion for the sector and they all have real desire to see excellence in independent food retailing, all have exceptional industry track records and we are delighted to be working with each of them.

John travels the entire UK with members of the panel of industry experts making totally unannounced visits to the shortlisted stores where very detailed assessments that include extensive video and still photography of every store takes place. All of these reports are then assessed by a final judging panel of industry leaders to select the winners. This methodology is industry-leading and will again categorically select the “very best of the best” retailers and stores in the UK.


Retail Experts

Mike Igoe 

Mike is a strong, cross functional retail and commercial director, with a proven track record in leading change, innovation and profit growth within retail environments. He has a thorough understanding of the retail landscape, the appropriate distribution model and the importance of growing store networks.

His experience is primarily within the UK convenience industry working with leading retailers who have changed the landscape of grocery retailing in the last 25 years. Always results driven, he enjoys managing through people. Particular strengths are in business reengineering and strategic direction, team management, manufacturer engagement, contract negotiation and the ability to work with suppliers and manufacturers to drive the right outcome.


Jemima Bird 
 Jemima runs her own brand consultancy Hello Finch. She led the transformation of The Coop Food rebrand including an iconic tie up with the UK’s first product placement deal with ITV’s Coronation Street. Jemima works with a number of start-up and established brands and also has a small portfolio of investments in private companies including BatFast, a cricket and baseball simulator for which she led the partnership with NatWest across the 2019 Ashes and Cricket World Cup, GainX an AI global transformation business and CorLife a digital behavioural change business transforming employee health for Corporates. Jemima achieved a distinction in her MBA from Warwick Business School. She is the Senior Non-Executive Director of Revolution Bars Group Plc, a Trustee of the Football Foundation and was previously on the advisory boards of Skillsmart Retail and Change4Life.

Guy Ousey 

Guy leads IGD’s conference and event programme, covering all parts of IGD’s research and insight; delivering conferences that focus on sharing innovation to deliver growth in food and grocery and the popular Trade Briefings that bring retailers' strategy directly from the board.

Responsible for bringing IGD’s global grocery retail research to delegates and the strategies retailers and brand owners are using to adapt to meet current and future shopper needs.

Guy’s commercial experience is rooted in national account management and brand activation, prior to joining IGD, he led the retail delivery of the UK National Lottery in the convenience channel.


Nigel Gray

Nigel has extensive experience in retail built up over 30 years. After graduating with an MSc degree at Durham University Business School, he joined Marks and Spencer PLC where he spent 20 progressive years of working throughout Britain and Ireland, including roles in Marble Arch and within the GM Buying Group in Baker Street. In September 2009, Nigel became the Retail Director at Hendersons, the family owned SPAR RDC in Northern Ireland where he spent 5 successful years before moving in 2014 to NISA Retail Ltd, initially as the Symbol Group Director and then ultimately as the Retail Director, it was during this time that Nigel played an integral part in the sale of the business to the Co-op. Nigel is passionate about the positive and influential role that retail can play within the community and has held the position of Chair and trustee of MADL (the charitable organisation linked to NISA Retail Ltd) as well as being on the boards of the ACS, Business in the Community NI, Belfast Chamber of Commerce (Vice President) and Belfast City Centre Management.