Red faces at Grey Label, the marketing agency that organises the “Croydon Business Excellence Awards”, where they have managed to shortlist as “Best Employer” a business that is about to make its 70 workers redundant.
As exclusively revealed by Inside Croydon last week, Waitrose on George Street is to close its doors in November, the store no longer considered profitable enough. Around 70 “partners” who work there stand to lose their jobs, unless they accept redeployment elsewhere in the business.
That hasn’t stopped the hapless organisers of the awards including Waitrose Croydon among the 10 businesses shortlisted for the Best Employer category, with the winner to be revealed “at a live, in-person awards ceremony this autumn”.
Organisers Grey Label – also known to some as White Label Creative – are the George Street-based business that is embedded in the Croydon Establishment, working with the council, developers and landlords, such as the Whitgift Foundation, to stage usually vacuous events such as the Develop Croydon conference (hasn’t that made a real difference to the borough?!) and mutual back-slapping awards nights.
Founded by a couple of former local newspaper staffers, some guff on their website seeks to explain what it is that their company does: “We work with some of the leading brands and businesses in the sector, building relationships, communicating ideas and developing solutions, creating and delivering compelling narratives, messaging, brands, events and marketing strategies.”
The Croydon business awards are a conceit, in that the event exists purely for the benefit of… Grey Label. By creating 12 categories and after drawing in a handful of sponsors, Grey Label usually hope that the various businesses shortlisted or nominated – this year, they reckon to have more than 100 entered – will each cough up to buy a table at the awards dinner.
The more categories they have, the more nominees they will have, and the more profits they can make.
There are doubtless some very worthy and deserving nominees among the 2022 lists.
But the fact that individual businesses and business people can self-nominate, and then spend the days until the closing date for votes in lobbying their staff, customers and contacts to vote for them, makes it a system that can be readily gamed.
Indeed, it’s almost as if the organisers want the eager candidates to manipulate the voting.
The shortlisting process is a little on the opaque side, and Grey Label has done nothing to stop a couple of their own sponsors for the event being included among the potential prize-winners.
Despite the awkward situation they have created by including the doomed Waitrose store among their possible winners, the people behind the awards have yet to take any action to remove them from the Good Employers category.
The blurb on Grey Label’s Business Excellence (ha!) Awards website says of Waitrose, “The proud, co-owned Croydon business employs around 70 people and in the last year has made its mission to ‘work in partnership for a happier world’.” Nice!
“Waitrose Croydon works to make their store a happy place for both customers and employees…”, oh, yeah!, “… by focusing on development, wellbeing, leisure and performance to ensure everyone receives excellent service and achieves their potential.”
Past winners of Grey Label’s business awards include one of Croydon’s more notorious chancers of the last decade, Kevin Zuchowski-Morrison.
The founder of the Rise Gallery was named “Business of the Year” in 2015, before anyone realised that his business model involved taking people’s cash but not delivering the artworks that they thought they’d bought.
A favourite of Tony Newman whenever the council leader fancied squandering more public money on art-washing, Zuchowski-Morrison’s business was eventually wound up by a supplier who was pissed off at not getting their bills paid. That, though, did not happen before artist Banksy warned his fans not to have anything to do with Kevin ZM.
Another regular winner at the “business excellence” awards has been Caridon, a property group which was receiving at least £8million a year in benefit payments for housing hundreds of people in flats as small as one-third of the minimum size which would be required under the planning regime.
Caridon are included on the 2022 business awards shortlists.
And Brasserie Vacherin, a top-end South Croydon restaurant popular with those who had expense accounts to pick up the bill, won at least two business excellence awards before it went out of business.
In comparison with such illustrious forerunners, Waitrose looks like a positively compelling candidate to win a prize. You just have to consider whether any of the Croydon Business Excellence Awards are prizes actually worth winning.
Read more: Banksy warns: do not trade with this Croydon art dealer
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Perhaps these marketing half-wits are also nominating other failed/closed organisations in Croydon, such as Allders, Westfield/Hammerson shopping centres, Bordeaux Fine Wines, schools such as St Andrew’s and Virgo Fidelis, the Water Palace (or even its predecessor, Purley Way Lido)?
The most competitive category would be most undistinguished/ugly building, or maybe most corrupt/crooked Croydon Council person (Newman, Negrini, Hall, Butler, Scott, etc.).
I worked in an office opposite Box park until about 5 years ago. That Waitrose was always busy and some people in my office only knew Croydon as being the station, office and waitrose..