Stratford ITM is a top shop, and that's official.
The Stratford store, owned by Mike and Kym Henry, was named the Supreme winner of WITT Top Shop at the sold-out gala awards evening on Saturday night.
It was a great night for the Stratford ITM team – winning the Large Format Store, Accessibility and Central Taranaki Regional awards, as well as taking out the big one.
While it is the first time the store has taken home the top title, it was the fourth time in a row the business has been named winner of the Central Taranaki Regional Award, with previous wins in 2017, 2018 and 2019. Covid restrictions meant the awards didn't take place last year.
"Obviously we are really pleased to have won that again, but for me personally, winning the Accessibility Award was a real highlight this year," says Kym.
Ensuring the store is accessible to all is something she is passionate about and Kym says she is very proud the store won the award.
"I used to work in rest homes, so am very aware of the needs of older people or people who are disabled in some way. It is something we think about in our store, from having wide aisles that can be accessed in a wheelchair or a mobility scooter to the fact you can park anywhere outside and ring a buzzer for someone to come outside and serve you if you can't get out of your car."
Other than fast-food drive-throughs, there aren't many places that offer that service in Taranaki, says Kym.
"It's a point of difference for us, we do it because we want all our customers to get excellent service."
Offering a free bathroom consultation is something else Kym thinks helps the store stand out.
"I go to houses all over Taranaki to help people design their new bathroom. We don't charge for that service, but see it as a way we can help people get the best outcome. I can also help them with finding the right tradies for the job and making sure they have everything they need."
Providing excellent customer service has been a focus of the business since it was started by Mike's grandfather in 1933.
"The store has grown over the years but one thing which has been consistent has been our determination to provide the customer experience we can. We never say we are perfect, there is always room to grow and to do better, but we do always give our best.
"From that first contact via the website or a phone call through to them walking into our warm shop, with a free freshly made coffee offered, the Scentsy burner running, we aim to make sure the environment is always welcoming and friendly."
The team also make sure they have great relationships with the tradies who use the store, says Kym.
"We value our great tradies and our loyal customers, from the delivery truck drivers right through, everyone we interact with, we want them to come away feeling they have been treated well."
The awards are a great way to measure how they are doing, says Kym.
"While we know we might be mystery shopped as part of the judging, I can honestly say we don't do anything different during that time. Every customer we deal with gets the same service from us, so it is great to be recognised for that, and to have that affirmation we are doing a good job."
Kym says she is always impressed by how well Stratford is represented at the awards, with plenty of local businesses making it through to the finals across the categories.
"I think all finalists are to be congratulated as they have all done an excellent job. Especially this year, after the year we had with lockdown and everything and know many businesses, ourselves included, are facing issues with shipping delays and supply problems."
Kym says she and Mike didn't expect to come away with four wins in the awards this year.
"We are really grateful to the great team we have here. We have 25 staff and every one of them does their best every day and each of them have contributed to these wins in some way."
Full list of winners:
· Large Format Store, Winner Stratford ITM, Highly Commended, Freedom Furniture
· Fashion, Footwear & Accessories, Winner Footloose
· Food & Beverage, Winner Kitchen Table, Highly Commended, Lemonwood Eatery
· Specialty Store, Winner Bianca Lorenne
· Automotive, Winner Ben Thomas Panelbeating
· Lifestyle & Leisure, Winner Poppies
· Health & Beauty, Winner Caci Clinic, Highly Commended, Jichelle Health & Beauty, Silk Skin Spa
· Accessibility, Winner Stratford ITM, Highly Commended, Blackbird Society, Liquorland Fitzroy