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An industry united for the Progressive Preschool Awards 2020

The preschool industry – spanning the nursery, toy, gift, apparel and licensing sectors – came together virtually last Thursday for the Progressive Preschool Awards 2020, with suppliers, retailers, distributors and licensors gathering online to see the winners crowned.

The online event started from 6:15pm and saw more than 500 attendees logging in from all over the UK to come together and celebrate the industry. The pre-awards reception allowed guests to chat among themselves online, with breakout video calls taking place in the popular Session Rooms, allowing for more focused catch-ups and conversations.

The awards ceremony itself kicked off with the traditional opening speeches from director Rob Willis and editor Jacqui Parr.  In addition to thanking everyone for all their help – especially the sponsors and the judges – the speeches also recognised the difficulties faced by both retailers and suppliers over the past year, but highlighted the dedication, inspiration and tenacity of the preschool sector.

Fran Bishop, founder of The Pud Store and star of The Apprentice.

Special guest speaker Fran Bishop – founder of The Pud Store and star of The Apprentice – then shared her impassioned perspective on the current retail landscape in an exclusive interview.  “Don’t just batten down the hatches when things are tough,” she said. “Remember why you started, remember what that passion for the industry is about… Covid has taken away some of the joy from retailing, but let’s put it back in.”

It was then over to Alan Dedicoat – the ‘voice of the balls’ for the National Lottery and Strictly Come Dancing announcer – who acted as the official winners announcer.

You can see the full list of winners by clicking here.

The Outstanding Achievement Award was given to Lisa Bryant, founder of Bump PR, who thanked the industry in a typically heartfelt and self-deprecating speech, which you can see in full here, beginning at the 44 minute mark.

Lisa Bryant, founder of Bump PR and winner of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award.

Feedback since the event has been overwhelmingly positive, with guests, finalists and sponsors particularly enjoying being able to chat ‘face-to-face’ in the session rooms, with the unanimous view that it worked extremely well and was a great alternative in the absence of a physical event. (Although unfortunately for many, the hangovers were certainly real enough!)

“Thanks to the PPSA team for putting on a great event, it’s an honour to be a sponsor,” commented Rainbow Designs’ md Anthony Temple, who also took home the award for The Best Infant Development Range. “It was great fun, although we were left with sore heads all round! Proof that you can have a good time virtually, but it certainly does not moderate the consumption. It was definitely worth it!”

Rainbow Design’s Session Room saw a steady stream of familiar faces.

The sentiment was echoed by Toymaster’s Brain McLaughlin, who commented: “It’s great to be a part of the event by sponsoring the Outstanding Achievement Award and celebrating these successes with our members and industry friends. Fingers crossed all is back to normal next year and we can meet up on the day to celebrate in person!”

If you were unable to tune in for last week’s live ceremony, please see the full video below, which is hosted on Max Publishing’s YouTube channel.

Sponsors for the 2020 event included: Amscan, Aykroyd & Sons, Azaria PR, BBC Studios, British Toy & Hobby Association (BTHA), Centum Books, East Coast Nursery, Dr. Gummer’s Good Play Guide, Harrogate International Nursery Fair, Hippychick,, London Toy Fair, Media Snug, Misirli, Nursery Online, Poetic Brands, Rainbow Designs, Redan Publishing, RH Smith & Sons (Smiffys), Toymaster, ViacomCBS, Vista PR and Walker Books.

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