An inspirational woman, caring is second nature to Kathy Adams and it was no surprise to customers and staff at McBride’s Spar in William St that she won Shop Manager of the Year.
It was a national award and the Lurgan woman was up against stiff competition from across the UK.
However, her natural skills with people, particularly young people, impressed the judges and she was presented the prestigious award at a plush event in the Grosvenor Hotel in London last week.
A former pupil of Brownlow Integrated College and Lurgan Tech, where she studied Business Studies, Kathy moved to England when she left school and worked in computers.
“When I came back I couldn’t get a job,” she said, adding that it was around 1985.
“There was a Spar shop behind my mum’s house, Billy Steel’s in Moyraverty and they were looking somebody to work at night.
“I went in there and started working for him and ended up loving working in a shop. So I worked there until he passed away.
“I learned a lot about shops from him because he was a man who had great standards and a great appreciation of his customers.
“He knew a lot about retail and he was one of the first to get a scanning system in for the tills. He got me to do all that sort of stuff, putting products into the system and I enjoyed it.
“When he died I took a break and went to work for the library in Brownlow as a temporary position. I loved working in the library and I worked over the years in both Lurgan and Brownlow libraries and it really got me back temping,” she told the ‘MAIL’.
Then she applied for a job at the Spar in William St Lurgan as a supervisor in 1997 when the shop just opened. She was there a year when the owner took her to manage a shop in Moy. “I worked for him for five years and left and came back after nine years because he asked me would I come back again.
“The shop was sold six years ago to Peter McBride, so we changed from Costcutter to Spar and changed ownership and Peter has been a brilliant boss. It was him and Lindsay who put me forward for the award. He’s a very good retailer. He has a number of shops but he is passionate about retail and it has been a real experience to work for somebody with that kind of passion. He always says that all our customers regardless of age, regardless if they spend 50p or £50, they all have to get treated the same,” she said.
However, Kathy is much more than a shop manager. She works tirelessly for charity and is enthusiastic about helping inspire young people.
The Spar in William St does a lot of work to raise funds for the NSPCC and for Macmillan Cancer Fund.
But Kathy goes beyond the call of duty and volunteers for a special charity in Belfast called Macs which supports young people.
“The majority of these young people just simply haven’t had a good deal out of life,” said Kathy.
Last year she developed a six week programme called Macs says relax. “It was open to both girls and fellas and it ended up it was all fellas and it was brilliant. I got a lot of out it. The first week we talked about stressers and what stressed them out. Even I learned a lot,” she said.
Kathy had previously learned aromatherapy and Indian head and face massage. She used these skills with the young people to help them learn to relax.
“Even here in the shop you have students that come through and I just have a real soft spot for them,” she said. She is eager to offer them as many opportunities as possible. “When they come in I would say whatever training is offered to you take it because it looks good on your CV. I have had quite a few students who have had their degrees and haven’t been able to get jobs so they are here until they get something and they are always doing extra training.
“I got quite a few congratulations from past students after winning the award. They said it was a great honour for them for me to be Manager of the Year and for them to be able to say they worked for me.
“I get very emotional about some of them,” said Kathy who is like a big mum to them all.
She even got a message from a former student nurse in New Zealand.
“Some of these young people went on to become doctors or are in business,” she said.
Kathy has two daughters Kirsty (28) and Courtney (24). Courtney works in the deli at the William St store and Kirsty is a manager in Moy Park and they are very proud of their mum.
She said getting the award was an ‘amazing experience’.
“My boss said it was an achievement just to get to it, even if I didn’t win because of the calibre of the people in it.”
Her advice to young people is: “Work hard and don’t give up. Young people these days are up against so much and they have so many challenges and that is one of the reasons why I wanted to get involved with the charity. There are some young people who are successful at getting a part time job and there are so many that aren’t and I do think that working in a place like this it gives them the things that they need for the future.
“Whenever they leave they always write me letters with their notice and they say thank you for your strong work ethic.
“It gives them a wee bit of confidence and especially young fellas. Young girls can carry themselves but young fellas sometimes just need that wee bit of confidence.”
She spoke of the praise for one young student from a customer. “The man’s dog had died and he had just come from the vet and one of the students had a conversation with him about the dog dying which made the customer feel better,” she said.
Sometimes a member of staff would stand outside the shop with an elderly customer’s dog so that she is able to go shopping.
“It’s all about the customers. All our customers are regulars. I would like to think that we do make a wee bit of a difference,” she said.
Indeed Kathy’s next project is to raise funds for a defibrillator outside the William Street store.
Kathy ensures the staff regularly engage in community fundraising and also holds an in-store collection every Christmas to buy disadvantaged children presents.
Judges praised Kathy’s “very good ideas” on store innovation and strong ability to embrace social media which has helped to build its following within the local community. One judge commented on how ‘perfect she handles her team and her equally good approach to management.”
Owner of the SPAR store Peter McBride said: “Everybody within McBride’s SPAR Group are so delighted that Kathy won this prestigious award. She is an inspiration to us all, one in a million and a great asset to our business. Kathy is dedicated to her team at SPAR Lurgan and leads very much by example. We are all so proud of “our” Kathy!”