PHOTO SPECIAL: All of this year’s Sunderland Retail Award winners

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AFTER working nine ’til five, Sunderland’s shop workers were free to let their hair down at this year’s Retail Awards.

More than 360 people gathered at The Bridges on Sunday night for a black-tie event to celebrate the very best of shop service.

Winners Hair/Beauty Specialist of the Year Fusion.

Winners Hair/Beauty Specialist of the Year Fusion.

There were 13 awards up for grabs, and every proud winner had a tale to tell.

It was a great night for Thoburn’s Fruit and Veg, which scooped the top prize for Service With A Smile before Paula Cocking, who has worked for Thoburn’s for five years, was announced joint winner of the Shooting Star Award.

Paula said: “I’m thrilled to bits. The girls I work with put a smile on my face every morning, and that’s what makes me love my job.”

Matthew Thoburn, who’s been in the business for 35 years said: “I just feel overwhelmed. It’s an honour to win and there’s nothing else I can say.”

And it was an exciting night for Collinson the Jewellers, which won Promotion Of The Year for its Pandora shop in The Bridges, and Independent Retailer of the Year for the second year in a row.

Harry Collinson Snr said: “It was such a surprise to win last year and to win again, wow! I feel quite emotional!

“I think it’s the staff – we offer what people want. We’re a Sunderland family born and bred, we’ve got 25 staff and we’ve been going for 30 years – brilliant!”

For Maureen Richardson and the staff from The Body Shop, it was a night to remember, as they scooped the top prize of National Retailer Of The Year.

Maureen said: “I’m really happy that we’ve won. This is the best team I’ve ever worked with. All the girls give 100 per cent.”

Doreen and David Parnaby, who own Esquires, won the favourite coffee and lunch award.

Doreen said: “Our coffee is a Fair Trade product and it’s served with a passion. We’re absolutely delighted to win.”

Luke Drennan, 22, was voted Trainee Of The Year.

Luke, who works for Cycle World, said: “After school I went from job to job doing temporary work. This is my first full-time permanent, job and I believe I’ll be there for a long time. I took over as workshop manager and I’m training for my Level 3 Cytek qualification. Once I’ve done that, I’ll be classed as a master mechanic. I always try my best.”

A new category for 2011 was Green Initiative of the Year, which was won by Schuh.

Manager Chris Roddie said: “We ran an incentive where people could bring in their old shoes and we’d recycle them or donate them to charity to raise money for the New Life Foundation. We were the first store in the country to try it, and we got a much bigger response than we had ever anticipated. It was for a great cause and we are chuffed to have won.”

ROLL OF HONOUR: The winners

Fashion Retailer Of The Year - Peacocks

Jeweller Of The Year - Beaverbrooks

Hair/Beauty Specialist Of The Year - Fusion

Favourite Coffee/Lunch Award - Esquires

Service Provider Of The Year - Rosscare (Shopmobility)

Green Initiative Of The Year - Schuh

Promotion Of The Year Award - Pandora

Service With A Smile Award (Team) - Thoburn’s Fruit and Veg

Service With A Smile Award (Individual) - Rachel Metcalf, from Relish, and Rachael Stevenson from Coffea Caban.

Independent Retailer Of The Year - JH Collinson

National Retailer Of The Year - The Body Shop

Shooting Star Award - Paula Cocking from Thoburn’s Fruit and Veg and Michael Wilkinson from Argos

Trainee Of The Year Award - Luke Drennan from Cycle World