Independent Retailer Entry and Judging Process


We’re looking for the very best UK off-trade retailers. Whether you excel in customer service, smash it out of the park on product range, run amazing events or wow your customers with great merchandising (or perhaps you’re just brilliant at everything!) we want to hear from you.

It’s free to enter! You can focus on a single category that shows off your specialism – or enter more than one if there are different aspects of your business that deserve recognition. But if you’re entering more than one category, you will need to complete a different entry form for each.

To get your awards journey rolling, complete an online entry by clicking on the category (or categories) you want to enter below. When answering the questions, focus on the aspects that you think make your business stand out from the crowd. And remember, we’re interested in learning as much as possible about your business, so try to be as concise as you can. It’s a retail competition, not a writing one!

From the information provided, we’ll draw up a shortlist of three finalists in each category.

The judging process for the final stage will be a mix of mystery shopping visits and more in-depth interviews with business owners.

A panel of drinks retailing industry experts will then consider all of the information from your entry form, the mystery shops and the interviews to choose a winner in each category.

You can complete your entry in one go, or start an entry form and save it to complete at a later date if that’s more convenient.

And the really important bit to remember: it’s completely free for independents to enter!

The winners will be named Oscar-style at the awards ceremony on Tuesday, February 7, 2023.

All the finalists will be invited as guests of Drinks Retailing and the awards sponsors.

That seems like a long way off, but to make the judging process thorough we need your entries now, so entries close on August 5 2022.


Enter Now!


Entries close: August 5, 2022


This award recognises the achievements of retailers who have recently joined the industry. The award will go to the small multiple or independent retailer who has set up a new operation since August 1, 2020. The award targets independents or small chains with 10 or less stores. It is open to all-round drinks shops and those who specialise in either wine, beer, spirits or cider. Judges will be looking to recognise true rising stars who have successfully built a new business with flair and determination.

This item is not available

We’re looking for the best start-up business in the UK off-trade. It’s an award that celebrates genuine innovation and entrepreneurial endeavour in drinks retailing – and we want to find the businesses that have brought something fresh and exciting to the industry.

Whether you’re a shop or hybrid, dedicated wine store or spirits specialist, beer emporium or great all-rounder, this award is open to you. The only qualification is that you must have a physical retail space and have started trading on or after August 1, 2020.


We’ll make allowances for the challenges of starting a new business, but the judges will be looking for:

  • A well thought-out approach to financing, location and branding the new business
  • An interesting and exciting product range
  • Effective use of marketing, promotions, social media and events to recruit customers
  • Great customer service and engagement
  • Businesses that have successfully connected with their local community and brought something new to the market
  • How challenges have been successfully met during the life of the business so far


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • How did you go about choosing the location, name and branding for your shop? 
  • What did you set out to achieve in building your drinks range (eg, in terms of pricing, variety, balance of different product types, target customers, suitability for the local market etc)?
  • Which categories within drinks have you placed particular emphasis on (eg, beer, whisky or wine … or particular countries, styles or regions etc)?
  • What approach have you taken to design, display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to build business? 
  • What changes have you made as you have gone along to fine-tune your offering?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will go to the independent drinks retailing business that has demonstrated the most innovation, creativity and effectiveness in events and communications in the year. The judges will take into account the entrants' own events, retail promotions, digital and traditional marketing communications, and educational programmes, and look at how these have contributed to growth of the business. It is open to all-round drinks retailers and those who focus on particular product categories such as wine, beer and spirits.

This item is not available

Do your social media feeds make you stand out in all the digital noise? Are your events bigger, better and more successful than everyone else’s? Do your in-store promotions and traditional marketing make a special connection with customers that leads to extraordinary sales?

If the answer to any of those questions is yes, this new award is one for you. We want to celebrate the flair, passion and innovation that makes independent drinks retailers some of the most exciting places for people to shop.

You can enter with a single piece of activity that wowed customers or a longer campaign that had a lasting impact.


The judges will be looking for

  • A strategic approach to the activity, with clear objectives and a plan for achieving them
  • Creativity, flair and innovation in the execution of the activity
  • Evidence of how the activity successfully translated into extra sales and profitability
Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Describe the activity: what did it involve; which forms of media did you use; how long did it run for etc
  • What was the aim of the activity (eg, to boost overall sales, to boost sales of one product category, to build loyalty etc) and were there any specific targets? 
  • How did you measure the success of the activity and whether targets were met?
  • What impact did the activity have on sales and profitability? 
  • Why do you think your activity should win this award?

This award will be given to the independent convenience store, multiple branch, fascia group member or franchise outlet that has most effectively used beers, ciders, wines and/or spirits to improve their overall business.

This item is not available

We want to find the single convenience store that excels in beers, wines, spirits and other drinks. You might have made craft beer an outstanding feature, created a sector-beating gin fixture, taken c-store wine retailing to a new level, or just be a great all-rounder.

You might be a member of a fascia group, a franchisee or fiercely independent, just as long as alcohol retailing is one of the things that makes your business stand out.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • Investment in beers, wines and spirits to enhance your overall business success
  • Changes to the BWS offering that have brought positive results
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media to get ahead of the game
  • Staff training to provide great customer advice and outstanding service


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you made beers, wines and spirits an important focus of your businesses as a whole?
  • What changes have you made to your beers, wines and spirits range in the past year to reflect changes in the market?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of beers, wines and spirits in the past year?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beers, wines and spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in your beers, wines and spirits section?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will go to the independent drinks retailer that has most effectively combined on-trade and off-trade elements to contribute to the success of the business in the past year. It is open to drinks all-rounders and those who specialise in either wine, beer, spirits or cider.

This item is not available

We want to find the business that combines elements of off-trade drinks retailing and hospitality in the most exciting and innovative way. It doesn’t matter if you’re a specialist in wine, spirits or beer – or great at doing all three – just so long as you have a great product range, a friendly vibe, great customer service and that the off-trade and on-trade elements complement each other to bring commercial success.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • Both a strong drinks retailing package and a great drink-in experience for customers
  • Investment in the business that has paid off in sales and profitability
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media to engage with existing and potential new customers
  • High levels of staff knowledge about the products you sell
  • Outstanding customer service
  • Ways the on-trade and off-trade elements work in tandem to enhance the all-round package

Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you combined off-trade and on-trade elements of retailing to create a successful business?
  • What changes have you made to your drinks range in the past year?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales in the past year?
  • What areas of the drinks market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg particular categories, styles, countries, production methods, regions, producers etc)? 
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beers, wines and spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in beers, wines and spirits?
  • Why should you win this award?
This award will go to the best all-round independent drinks retailer. To win this award you will have to demonstrate excellence in range in ALL major drinks categories - beers, wines and spirits – as well as overall commercial success in the past year.
This item is not available

For this award we’re looking for the best all-round drinks shop in the UK, with a great product range in wine, spirits and beer … and possibly more. You might be especially brilliant in some of these areas, but whether a customer is looking for cutting edge craft beer, the most boutique-y of boutique spirits, or the best quality wines for their price, your shop will be the place to go.

Excellent retail standards, customer service and innovative ways to engage shoppers will all be important to the success of the business.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • A product range that provides genuine choice in wine, spirits and beer, and that stands out from the crowd
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media that cuts through in your local market
  • How staff training, knowledge and passion translates into meaningful customer engagement
  • Use of great merchandising and display to enhance the customer shopping experience
  • How investment in the business has paid off in commercial success


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why is it important for you to be a drinks all-rounder and how do you achieve balance in your offering? 
  • What changes have you made to your beers, wines and spirits range in the past year to reflect changes in the market?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of beers, wines and spirits in the past year?
  • What areas of the drinks market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg product types, regions, countries etc)?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beers, wines and spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in all parts of your beers, wines and spirits section?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will go to the best Beer & Cider Retailer. To win this award you will have to demonstrate excellence in range of beers ciders– as well as overall commercial success in the past year.

This item is not available

We’re looking for the independent beer and cider retailer that excels in product range, specialist knowledge, and customer service and engagement.

If you’ve got the knack for sourcing great local products or exotic beers and ciders from far and wide, run great events, or can give geeks and novices great advice in equal measure (or all of these!), then this is the category for you.

You might be a dedicated specialist beer and/or cider store, or a drinks retailer with a mixed product range that regards beer and/or cider as a key part of your offer.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • Aproduct range that makes you stand out from the crowd in beer
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media that cuts through in your local market
  • How staff training, knowledge and passion translates into meaningful customer engagement
  • Use of great merchandising and display to enhance the customer shopping experience
  • How investment in beer in the business had paid off in commercial success

Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • How many beer & ciders do you typically stock at any one time?
  • What percentage of your total sales comes from beer 5 cider?
  • In %, by how much have your cider sales grown in the past year?
  • Why and how have you made cider an important focus for your businesses?
  • What changes have you made to your beer & cider range in the past year to reflect changes in the market?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of cider in the past year?
  • What areas of the beer & cider market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg particular styles, local products, packaging types, countries etc)?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beer & cider business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in beer & cider?
  • Why should you win this award?


This award will go to the independent spirits retailer that has done the most to champion spirits and made it a core element in the success of their business in the past year. Spirits should be a substantial and growing part of the business.

This item is not available

Independent Spirits Retailer of the Year Have you got an unrivalled gin range? A whisky line-up that ticks boxes for both connoisseurs and the curious? Or perhaps a rum range that takes customers on an exciting and exotic journey? Then this is your category.

The category is open to shops that excel in range, service and expertise in spirits across the board, or those who specialise in a single segment of the market.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • A product range in that makes you stand out from the crowd in spirits
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media that cuts through in your local market
  • How staff training, knowledge and passion translates into meaningful customer engagement
  • Use of great merchandising and display to enhance the customer shopping experience
  • How investment in spirits has paid off in commercial success


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you made spirits an important focus of your businesses a whole?
  • What changes have you made to your spirits range in the past year to reflect changes in the market?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of spirits in the past year?
  • What sub-categories of the spirits market do you specialise in or champion above others?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in spirits?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will go to the independent wine retailer that has done the most to champion wine and made it a core element in the success of their business in the past year. Wine should be a substantial and growing part of the business.

This item is not available

We’re looking for the best wine shop in the UK. That could mean a top-end fine wine emporium, a business that excels in finding gems from little-explored corners of the wine world, or a store where great value examples of classics are allowed to shine. In addition to a great range, the winner should provide excellent customer service, elevate the wine shopping experience beyond the norm and enhance customer expectations and appreciation of wine.

You might be a retail-only store or an on/off hybrid. And you could be a store where wine is the main focus of the business or one that excels in wine within a broader product range.


The judges will be looking for:

  • A product range that makes you stand out from the crowd in wine
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media that cuts through in your local market
  • How staff training, knowledge and passion translates into meaningful customer engagement
  • Use of great merchandising and display to enhance the customer shopping experience
  • How investment in wine in the business had paid off in commercial success


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you made wine an important focus of your businesses a whole?
  • What changes have you made to your wine range in the past year? 
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of wine in the past year?
  • What areas of the wine market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg particular styles, countries, production methods, regions etc)?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your wine business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in wine?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will be given to the department store or high-end retailer that has done the most to champion wines, spirits and beers of exceptional quality, driving genuine value into the market and promoting the drinks trade as one capable of standing toe-to-toe with any other luxury industry.

This item is not available

This award is for those retailers that take drinks retailing to extra special levels at the very top end of the market. The winner could be a specialist drinks store with exceptional retail standards and product range, or a wine, spirits and beer section within a more general retail environment such as a high end department store.

We want to highlight retailers who celebrate great quality drinks and put them on a par with luxury items in other product categories, and where the overall shopping experience has a genuine wow factor.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • An exceptional product range in one or more drinks categories, including elements of exclusivity
  • Merchandising, display and other in-store features that make the shopping experience extra special
  • Standards of customer service, staff knowledge and passion that elevate the shopping experience above the norm
  • Investment in wine, spirits and beer to make drinks an important contributor to the success of the business as a whole


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you made beers, wines and spirits an important focus of your businesses as a whole?
  • What changes have you made to your beers, wines and spirits range in the past year?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of beers, wines and spirits in the past year?
  • What areas of the drinks market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg categories, styles, countries, production methods, regions, producers etc)?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beers, wines and spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in beers, wines and spirits?
  • Why should you win this award?

This will go to the independent bricks and mortar drinks retailer that has most successfully launched into or grown their online and direct-to-consumer business since the start of 2020. It is open to all-round drinks retailers and those who specialise in wine, beer or spirits. Judges will look for excellence in range, service and customer satisfaction and evidence of how this revenue stream has contributed to the growth of the business as a whole, either on a local or national level.

This item is not available

We’re on a mission to celebrate the independent off-trade retailers who’ve adapted to make the digital space a successful part of their armoury.

This award is a neat fit for physical stores that have pivoted to embrace ecommerce in an extraordinary economic landscape, or those who have managed to turbocharge an existing online presence.

Either way, the essence is how you’ve made the benefits in range and service of shopping with a local independent available nationally (or internationally!), while retaining the personality of a small or medium-sized business.


The judges will be looking for:

  • Great web design: sites that are attractive and easy for shoppers to find their way around and add value to the online experience
  • A product range that sets you out from the crowd – innovative investment in successful customer recruitment
  • Evidence of high fulfilment standards, including accuracy of orders and punctuality of deliveries
  • Positive measures of customer satisfaction – effective processes in place to avoid under-age sales


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why and how have you made online a focus of your business?
  • What proportion of your business is online versus bricks and mortar, and how has this changed in the last year?
  • How has your online presence grown and what evidence can you provide (eg, revenue, basket spends, overall customer numbers, first-time customers, repeat purchase levels etc)?
  • How big is your online range and how does this compare with your in-store offering?
  • Which drinks categories have sold particularly well through your online channel?
  • How have you recruited online customers and raised awareness of your online service?
  • How have you used online to increase your overall customer base and geographic reach?
  • How have you managed to develop relationships with your online customers?
  • What evidence can you provide of customer service and satisfaction levels?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award is open to chains of 2-10 company-owned and managed shops that has demonstrated its own commercial success and contributed to the overall health of the specialist drinks retailing sector.

This item is not available

The most ambitious and successful independents often go on to open additional stores in their city or region. With this award, we’re looking for the drinks retailing chains that have successfully translated their offering to new locations, with great ranges and top quality customer experiences.

The winner might have retail-only or hybrid formats, specialise in one or more categories in BWS, or be a genuine all-rounder. The important thing is how the concept has been adapted to suit different locations while retaining an independent personality.

To enter you must have between two and 10 physical stores as of the closing date for the competition.


The judges will be looking for evidence of:

  • A product range that that stands out from the crowd
  • Use of marketing, events, promotions and social media that cuts through in the local market for each store and the business as a whole
  • How staff training, knowledge and passion translates into meaningful customer engagement
  • Use of great merchandising and display to enhance the customer shopping experience
  • A strategic approach to adding new sites and managing existing ones
  • How investment in the developing the chain has paid off in commercial success

Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • How have you made beers, wines and spirits an important focus of your businesses a whole?
  • Provide details of the location of stores and how you tailor your range and service to suit different locations.
  • What changes have you made to your beers, wines and spirits range in the past year?
  • What changes have you made in display, merchandising or in-store features to drive sales of drinks in the past year?
  • What areas of the drinks market do you specialise in or champion above others (eg categories, styles, countries, regions, producers, local products etc)?
  • How have you used events, marketing and promotions to boost your beers, wines and spirits business in the past year?
  • How do you ensure your staff are equipped to advise customers on purchasing decisions in all areas of beers, wines and spirits?
  • Why should you win this award?

This award will go to the retailer with the best specialist presence in online drinks retailing, whose primary route to market is direct-to-consumer. This can include those dedicated to wine, beer or spirits, or those who sell a combination of these. Judges will look at commercial success in the past 12 months, alongside factors such as web design, innovation in customer engagement, service levels and evidence of positive customer feedback.

This item is not available

This is our award for the larger, established ecommerce drinks retailers who have innovated and evolved to make online alcohol shopping a safe, secure, easy, reliable and pleasurable experience for consumers.

The winner could just as easily be a specialist in one area of the drinks market (eg wine, whisky or beer) or a brilliant all-rounder.


The judges will be looking for:

  • Great web design: sites that are attractive and easy for shoppers to find their way around and add value to the online experience
  • A product range that sets you out from the crowd
  • Innovative investment in successful customer recruitment
  • Evidence of high fulfilment standards, including accuracy of orders and punctuality of deliveries
  • Positive measures of customer satisfaction
  • Effective processes in place to avoid under-age sales


Along with providing information about your turnover and growth in sales the past year, you will also be asked the following questions during the entry process. You may wish to prepare your answers offline before you complete the online entry process. There is a 150 word limit for these questions.

  • Why do you believe you are the best online retailer in the drinks industry?
  • What sets you apart from your competitors?
  • Can you provide sales data from the past year? Is the business in growth and profitable?
  • What is your approach to building the range? How has it improved over the past year?
  • How have you gone about recruiting new customers?
  • How do you hang on to existing customers?
  • How have you encouraged higher basket spends and repeat purchases?
  • How quickly and accurately do you fulfil orders?
  • Have you succeeded with any innovations over the past year?
  • Why should you win this award?

SUPPORTED BY