Australia’s leading retailers were yesterday crowned at the 2018 Australian Retail Awards in Melbourne.

Each recognised for their innovative leadership and success despite increasingly tough competition, winners were selected across 13 separate categories.

Family-owned retailer PETstock took the title of the 2018 eftpos National Retailer of the Year yesterday, recognised for their progressive leadership and for leading the way in sustainability.

The retailer was applauded for their successful expansion into over 140 retail sites and to 1,800 team members across Australia and NZ as they met tough competition in the industry.

The Party People took out gold this year, acclaimed across multiple categories and taking three titles including the 2018 Roy Morgan Retail Leader of the Year, the Independent Retailer of the Year Award and Online Retailer of the Year. Holding Australia’s largest collection of party supplies distributed around the world, the family business was recognised for their transformation from a physical store to a global online sales platform.

Other winners applauded for leading the way in the sector include Battery World as Franchise Chain of the Year, who also jointly won as Innovator of the Year alongside Beer Cartel, who were recognised for challenging negative connotations around alcohol consumption and leading the way in the craft beer market.

Sportsgirl’s BE THAT GIRL campaign was recognised for excellence in Retail Marketing, while Simply for Strings won the Independent Retailer of the Year Award.

Brava Lingerie won for Excellence in Customer Experience, Spoilt Gifts and Homewares for Independent Retailer of the Year and Louise Stephens and Peregrine Corporation for Young Retailer of the Year while ALDI once again took out the title of Retail Employer of the Year. Brava Lingerie were acclaimed for their multiplatform approach to customer-experience, congratulated for delivering excellent customer service across all customer shopping platforms.

Russell Zimmerman, Executive Director of the ARA, said the standard of candidates this year was exception, and the award winners encapsulated the authentic characteristics required to succeed in the current market.

“As online and global markets continue to challenge the retail industry, the variety of small, medium and large retailers capturing this year’s award titles showcases the diverse and extraordinary talent we have in Australian retail,” Mr Zimmerman said.

“Every year the retail awards judging process gets harder, and this year’s winners are no exception as these remarkable retailers truly are a testament to the vibrant and progressive industry we are in today.”

Over 500 guests were in attendance, with the awards breakfast hosted by Channel 9 television presenter Livinia Nixon and held at Myer Mural Hall. Naomi Simson, founder of online experience retailer, RedBalloon, spoke at the event, sharing her success story with the audience.

The panel of esteemed judges conducted the first analysis of the awards including industry trailblazers Bernie Brookes AM, Adjunct Industry Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology, Camille Reed, Founder of Australian Circular Fashion (ACF), Rupert Deans, Founder of augmented reality platform Plattar, Radinck van Vollenhoen, Country Manager of Stocard, and Warwick Ponder, Head of Corporate Affairs and Communications at eftpos Australia.

The nominations were reviewed over a two-week period, with each participant scored for each submission out of five and subsequently ranked alongside their award category counterparts, with the highest-ranking retailers making the finals.

The two most sought-after retail awards, the 2018 eftpos National Retailer of the Year Award and the 2018 The Realise Group Excellence in Customer Experience Award, experienced a second round of evaluation conducted by The Realise Group, a customer experience measurement agency, to determine the winners of each award, the ARA said.

Bernie Brookes, Adjunct Industry Fellow at Swinburne University of Technology and one of the award’s judges said this year’s winners are the driving force propelling the industry forward.

“With the continual influence technology plays in the retail sector, the 2018 eftpos ARA Australian Retail Award winners represent the outstanding leadership and innovative qualities required to succeed in a thriving and competitive industry,” Mr Brookes said.

“This national retail Awards program recognises the retailers who continue to shift the retail realm forward, and it was a pleasure to be involved in such a prestigious industry event.”