Joanne Walker, store manager at EUROSPAR Carrowdore, Newtownards has achieved a Northern Ireland first as a finalist in an international awards ceremony.

The FMI Store Manager Awards are run by the Food Marketing Institute in the U.S and Joanne is a finalist in the International Category, which aims to celebrate outstanding managers who generate sales growth, effectively communicate company and store goals and objectives, demonstrate team leadership, provide exceptional customer service and improve community relations.

Joanne, from Bangor is the first from Northern Ireland to be a finalist in the awards, which have been running since 2001.

The winners throughout four categories will be announced at the Future Leaders Summit in Louisville, Kentucky in May.

Joanne, who has been store manager of EUROSPAR Carrowdore for two years says she is over the moon about being a finalist; “I couldn’t believe it when I got the email through to say I was nominated and would be travelling to Kentucky for three nights in May.

“This is such a huge opportunity for me; I am passionate about retail and recently managed a £1M+ re-brand of our SPAR store to a EUROSPAR supermarket in Carrowdore, doubling the store size and our employee numbers. We now employ almost 30 staff and are a real hub of the community in our area. I’ll be representing the whole team and village when I’m in the States!”

Mark McCammond, Retail Director at Henderson Group, owners of the EUROSPAR franchise in Northern Ireland commented; “We are thrilled for Joanne making the final stages of the awards. This is a huge accolade for her and her team, and so well deserved.

“The FMI Store Manager Awards are highly regarded around the world, and for one of our team to be the first ever finalist from Northern Ireland should be celebrated as deserved. We are constantly striving for growth and setting the standards in store management and community impact here, and Joanne has just set a whole new standard for our region.”

The FMI Store Manager Awards are judged by an independent panel of human resource experts, scoring the entrants through criteria reflecting sales growth and overall business performance of the store, leadership and mentorship, in-store initiatives to improve customer satisfaction and to ensure staff are volunteering, fundraising or making an impact in their local communities.

Joanne has ensured the store has been involved in fundraising coffee mornings for Cancer Fund for Children, whilst also rallying staff members and local shoppers to raise money for the installation of a potentially life-saving defibrillators, available 24/7 for community use in the area.

The awards take place at Future Leaders in Louisville, Kentucky from 15 – 17 May 2018 with winners taking home not only the crystal award, but $1,000 each.

All finalists also qualify for the Peoples’ Pick Award, which is decided through a Facebook vote on FMI’s page for one week beginning Monday 23 April. The nominee with the most votes by the end of the week wins a special trophy and $500 to celebrate their store employees.