One of the most inspiring female retailers of the year has just been announced by the 2016 Worldpay everywoman in Retail Ambassadors programme. Leigh Nelson, Store Director and Dispensing Optician at Specsavers Newtownards in Belfast has been named as its 2016 Retail Ambassador of the Year, from a group of 12 woman, each excelling in their field.
The ambassadors were all honoured at an awards ceremony and dinner held at The Langham Hotel in London on 13th September. The ambassadors were chosen based on their inspiring retail careers. Leigh caught the attention of the judges because of her highly successful career, which started in 1996, when she made the decision to leave her job as an accountant and work for Specsavers as a Dispensing Assistant. Though she had no previous retail experience, within five years she had worked her way up to become a store director, and had spearheaded the opening of Specsavers Newtownards.
Leigh has also increased the store workforce from four to 20 members since 2001, and this year, store sales reached nearly £1.2 million. Importantly, Leigh is also a mentor and guide to her team, helping them to achieve life-long qualifications, which they need to move forward. As the mother of an autistic son, she has also helped create a flagship opticians recognised by health professionals as a specialist service for children with special needs.
Other inspirational 2016 ambassadors who attended the event include Phoebe Gormley, who last year launched the first female-only Saville Row tailors, Sarah Wakefield, who entered the Co-Op graduate scheme and in 2015 became their food sustainability manager, as well as Kathryn Jaquet, who formed RB Equestrian, which went on to win British Equestrian Trade Association Retailer of the Year 2015.
In an industry that employs a 60% female workforce, remarkably only 10% of retail executive board members and 20% of retail executive teams are female. But the Worldpay everywoman in Retail Ambassadors programme is an initiative aiming to recognise women at various points in their retail careers and their achievements so far – and is paving the way for change.