For the past five years I’ve been benchmarking my store and making the changes the Independent Achievers Academy recommends; and in the past couple of years I’ve been fortunate to win awards, most recently the one for Responsible Retailing earlier this month.

I love winning the awards and getting recognition, but taking part in the IAA is crucial for me because it tells me which areas of my store could do with improvement.

There’s so much advice out there, but if you’re not willing to learn from the experts then you’re not willing to take your business forward.

From the feedback, I’ve identified digital media and food to go as massive parts of my vision for next year. I’m seeking out as much information as I can about those areas to improve.

Next January I’m adding nearly four metres of chilled space as part of a massive refit. I’m also going to empower some of my younger staff to get involved with social media. I find it a bit difficult, but it’s good to give your younger staff a bit more responsibility.

I’m also going to work with PR company Mercieca’s Hi Street programme to get some digital screens installed to promote to people outside.

You can’t come into the IAA thinking you’re going to win straight away, but it’s far more important to your business to compare your store to the best ones in the country. Not getting involved is silly, you can only gain good things from it.

It goes into far more detail than just an application form. The mystery shoppers are here for three or four hours and they pick your store to pieces and analyse everything – but that’s what you want.

To me, it’s the most important award you can ever win. The Gala Dinner was a fantastic night with unbelievable hospitality – thank you to everyone involved. It was a pleasure to win again and gives us the momentum to keep going for next year.

Find out why Bay came top of the Responsible Retailing category.