In a new initiative designed to boost awareness of the opportunities offered by a career in retail, Specsavers and everywoman hosted a reception in London's Covent Garden last week where its inaugural Retail Ambassadors were announced.

Housewares retailer Martha Ferguson named as industry role model

In a new initiative designed to boost awareness of the opportunities offered by a career in retail, Specsavers and everywoman hosted a reception in London’s Covent Garden last week where its inaugural Retail Ambassadors were announced.

Housewares retailer Martha Ferguson named as industry role model

During the celebratory evening, some 200 women from the retail industry applauded the success of the chosen Ambassadors and discussed ways in which the industry needs to adapt to ensure it attracts the cream of the professional talent pool.

High profile attendees included founder of Specsavers, Dame Mary Perkins; fashion designer Amanda Wakeley OBE; the newest addition to Dragon’s Den, Kelly Hoppen MBE as well as leaders from programme partners Asda, Barclays, Pentland Group and Santander – organisations recognised for being diversity champions and supporters of women in business. They were joined by Baroness Tanni Grey-Thompson DBE, who spoke about the importance of role models who inspire young people across all walks of life

Companies displaying best practice were identified for recognition by an advisory board comprising the key industry trade bodies including bira (British Independent Retailers Association); Copra (Cosmetic & Perfumery Retailers Association); ERA (Entertainment Retailers Association); Fashion Retail Academy; FSB (Federation of Small Businesses); IMRG (Interactive Media in Retail Group) and Women in Retail.

The 12 2013 Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors were selected for their resilience, hard-work, and contribution to the industry, whether as an entrepreneur, a corporate high-flier or a future star.

The list includes the housewares industry’s own Martha Ferguson, the owner/director of contemporary kitchenware store Papylon in London, which she set up when she was just 26.

Martha worked her way up from the shop floor aged 16, gaining experience with several high street fashion retail businesses including Whistles and Principles, before setting her sights on launching her own business.

Identifying a gap in the market, she launched Papylon in 2011. In just two years, Martha has been the recipient of five awards including ‘CHA Young Retailer of the Year’ and ‘Housewares Rising Star’, as well as achieving a first class degree in Fashion Design from Nottingham Trent University. She also won a scholarship from the Retail Trust, enabling her to attend the bira Oxford Summer School Masters retail training programme in 2013.

Maxine Benson MBE, co-founder of everywoman commented: “It is a business imperative to unlock the talents of all women in the workplace. Our 12 2013 Retail Ambassadors are all role models who are playing a vital part in unlocking the potential of other women in their orbit: friends, colleagues, the young girl on work experience, the customer considering a return to work after a career break. When they experience the passion that our Ambassadors have for their work, and see the success they are achieving, they will know just how rewarding a career in retail can be. That’s why the role these 12 women hold as Specsavers everywoman in Retail Ambassadors is so important.”

Dame Mary Perkins, co-founder of Specsavers added: “These Retail Ambassadors will help increase awareness of the myriad of opportunities for women and hopefully drive more women to consider a career in retail.”

A special award for Retail Ambassador of the Year was presented by Dame Mary Perkins to Judith Batchelar, Director of Brand at Sainsbury’s, for her pioneering approach to sustainability in one of the UK’s largest supermarkets.

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