Kirkcaldy retailer couple honoured with Local Hero award

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Asian Trader Local Hero Award
L-R: Shailesh Solanki, Becky Toms – Senior Director Impulse, Field & GTM PepsiCo, Asif & Abada Akhtar, Kalpesh Solanki, Rory Bremner

Husband-and-wife team Asif and Abada Akhtar, who run Premier Smeaton Stores in Kirkcaldy, has bagged Local Hero Awardat the 2021 Asian Trader Awards.

The 33rd edition of the awards, which celebrates excellence in the UK’s convenience stores, was held on Tuesday 30 November at Park Plaza Westminster Bridge, London hosted by noted impressionist Rory Bremner.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has graced the event as chief guest, with leading politicians and captains of industry joining in to herald independent retailers, convenience store and symbol operators, shopkeepers, off-license owners and newsagents from across the UK.

Delivering his keynote speech, Kwarteng said: “I have to say to the companies and  business leaders represented here tonight that you have shown a spirit of sacrifice, and huge amounts of real leadership in your communities. And that’s why I wouldn’t miss this event for the world.

“It was retailers, day in day out, who were bearing the brunt of the risk, who were working, in many cases 20 hours a day, to keep people going and to make sure that essential goods and services were provided. And my only word is thank you. You probably don’t hear that too often from government ministers.

“But from the bottom of my heart that is the most sincere, heartfelt message, because it’s been a terrible time, for so many people in lots of different communities, and without your support, without your unstinting effort, things would have been a lot worse. So thank you very much on behalf of everybody in this country.”

Winners of Asian Trader Awards 2021

The Asian Trader Local Hero Award, supported by Walkers Sensations, acknowledges the role played by store-owners during the pandemic, and shines light on the most innovative and magnanimous manner they responded for their customers and community.

The Akhtars think what they do locally is ‘normal’, but for the community, it has been extra ordinary. They began their retailing journey 20 years ago, and spending so long in the same community had a huge impact on what role the store plays in Smeaton.

They have their own officially registered charity and raised in excess of £75,000 to date. Two schools, four children’s homes and a mental health unit in their vicinity have been beneficiaries of their various initiatives, among others.

They also work with local council to provide temporary accommodation for vulnerable families, and the last three properties they handed in to the council are being used to house Afghan refugees.

The Judging Panel said: “A very modest couple who think what they do locally is “normal” – in our experience it is not! They take in kids from the children’s homes to provide work experience.”

The full list of the winners:

  • Ram Solanki Lifetime Achievement Award: Sir David Amess MP (posthumous)
  • Wholesale Depot of the Year Award: Time Cash & Carry Rainham
  • Responsible Retailer of the Year supported by JTI: Lewis Prager, Best One Preens, Wakefield West Yorkshire and Jonathan James, James Convenience Retail Ltd, Derby
  • Convenience Chain of the Year Award supported by Dr Beckmann: Pete (Kalpesh) Patel, Zola Ltd (Costcutter) Southborough
  • Local Hero Award supported by Walkers Sensations: Asif Akhtar, Premier Smeaton Stores, Kirkcaldy
  • Bakery Retailer of the Year Award supported by Warburtons: Mike Humphreys, Premier Kenninghall Stores and Post Office Norwich
  • Independent Retailer of the Year Award supported by Booker: Pete Saleem, Premier Broadway Circle, Blythe, Northumberland
  • Food To Go Retailer of the Year Award: Shamly Sud, Premier Racetrack, Glasgow
  • Tobacco Retailer of the Year Award supported by Imperial Tobacco: Amit Puntambekar, Ash’s Store, Fenstanton, Cambridgeshire
  • Impulse Retailer of the Year Award supported by State Bank of India: Mos Patel Family Shopper Ashton Under Lyne (Both Shops)
  • Symbol Convenience Retailer of the Year Award supported by Bestway: Kopi Kalanathan, Costcutter, Doncaster
  • Next Gen Award supported by pladis: Nishi Patel, Londis Bexley Park, Dartford
  • Vape Convenience Retailer of the Year Award supported by British American Tobacco: Aman Uppal, One Stop Mount Nod, Coventry
  • Spirit of the Community Award supported by Mondelez: Julie Kaur, Premier Jules Convenience Store, Telford
  • Asian Trader of the Year: Mandeep Singh, Premier Singh’s Shirecliffe, Sheffield

Product Awards:

  • Convenience Snacks Brand of the Year: McCoy’s Fire Pit, KP Snacks
  • Convenience Soft Drink Brand of the Year: Monster Nitro, Coca-Cola Europacific Partners
  • Convenience Confectionery Brand of the Year: Cadbury Twirl Orange by Mondelēz International
  • Convenience Vape & Next Gen Product of the Year: Ploom by JTI