Store Manager of the Year

Catherine Johnson

 “Catherine motivates and inspires staff and leads by example, priding herself on excellent customer service and going the extra mile”

About Catherine 

Catherine Johnson is store manager of Carr’s Billington’s Hexham store in Northumberland.

She said: “I was very surprised to win the award as I didn’t feel like I deserved it; I had been in my role for 11 months – it was a nice surprise.”

To run a successful store, Catherine said that she works on the shop floor as often as she can so that she is in contact with staff and customers. She said: “The manager needs to motivate and inspire their staff and lead by example. I lead the team, but I am part of it as well. I love that in agri retail we are part of the community.

“People buy from people and that is why I believe it is so important to build good relationships with customers and to encourage a happy and welcoming environment.”

Catherine said that while the year was dominated by COVID-19, she is delighted that her team has risen to the challenge.

“After we re-opened after lockdown a lot of customers commented how much they had missed coming into store for some craic and banter and I think this is testament to how much a part of the community we are – we aren’t just a shop.

“We pride ourselves on our excellent customer service and going the extra mile for customers. This builds up loyalty and increases sales.”

Catherine does not ask any of her staff to do something that she would not do herself.

“I clean the store, drive the delivery van, work in the warehouse, drive the forklift, take orders, work on the counter, put deliveries together – whatever is needed,” she said.

“During COVID-19 we have faced unprecedented and extremely challenging times. All of us in store have had to perform tasks that are outside our usual roles to keep the business operational. I am proud of how the staff here rose to the challenges we faced, and we became even better as a team.”

Catherine said that resistance is a major challenge, particularly in the livestock sector.

“It is up to us as SQPs to advise and educate customers that indiscriminate use of wormers is a way of encouraging resistance,” she said.

“I am very aware of the guidance issued by AMTRA, SCOPS and COWS regarding responsible use of medicines and I incorporate this into my discussions with customers.”

While acknowledging that her store has to be profitable, Catherine said it is much more important for customers to be advised correctly.

“Customers may come in wanting a certain product, but this may not actually be the product that they need,” she said. “It is important that we SQPS do our jobs thoroughly because if we don’t problems such as resistance will only become worse.

“We promote the SQP qualification and explain to customers that not everyone can advise on animal medicines and that being an SQP is a special qualification where the adviser has had to attend a training course and pass an exam, and that we have to keep up to date with current practices/ knowledge in order to keep our status as an advisor.”

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