Plant fanatic Grace knows her craft
Springmount Garden Centre in Ballycanew put itself on the map of national retailers when staff member Grace Hamilton from Ballygarrett was named as one of five rising stars for retail in Ireland at the Retail Excellence awards.
The team attended a ceremony in Killarney, and Grace was delighted to be among like-minded people who take their roles very seriously.
Other finalists worked in larger stores, but the judges confirmed that all went the extra mile for their employers and the customers.
For Grace, who has been a member of the Springmount team for about five years both part and full time, it was house plants that she decided to put her energy in to.
'I treat them like they are my friends, I talk to them and make sure they are keeping well. The trend of having house plants has really exploded, and even this year our sales in the area has grown by 69%.
'Customers come in and take on house plants to mind and nurture, it helps with mental health as well.
'I know a lot of people who live in rented or small accommodation who can't have pets, so they have plants instead.
'A lot of people have them in offices as well as they are good for air circulation and health as they help with purification,' she said.
Grace said that this is the first award she has won during her time working at Springmount.
'I was put forward by Springmount and it didn't feel real, it was a crazy whirlwind. I did an interview in Dublin which involved a lot of loaded questions, and after this I had to do a video piece which was shown at the awards ceremony.
'I've quite a quirky personality, but they mostly wanted to know about my customer service.
'The way I see it when talking to a customer, you have to listen as well as having the answer.
'You think about how you can impact them and benefit their needs so you have to listen to the whole question,' she said.
Grace said that she was proud to be in the final of the awards but really working in retail is the reward.
'I like retail because it changes so much and no two days are ever the same. The garden centre is based on seasons so you could never be bored and the people are always different too.
'I love working in Springmount, it's so much fun and it is like an extended family,' she said.