Expert judging panel confirmed for Boutique Star Awards 2024

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Leading independent retail owners, agents and industry association leaders are on the judging panel for this year’s Boutique Star Awards.

Sunday Best CEO Jan Shutt and Doodie Stark owner Liz Jefferson are among the retail experts chosen to help deliberate the entries. They are joined by AIS’s James Crabtree, Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre, fashion agent Diane Sykes, small business expert Catherine Erdly and Boutique magazine editor Gemma Ward.

Each member of this year’s esteemed judging panel has been carefully selected for their individual industry expertise and insider knowledge on what makes an outstanding independent fashion retail and wholesale business.

Jan Shutt, Sunday Best

Retail veteran Jan Shutt has been running a successful womenswear independent for over 50 years. Inspired by Biba on Kensington High Street, she first opened Sunday Best in Rawtenstall in 1971 and has been at the helm ever since. Throughout her career there have been numerous highlights – from winning national awards and appearing on television to working with high profile fashion designers. In November she was presented with the Lifetime Achievement accolade at the Boutique Star Awards 2023.

Liz Jefferson, Doodie Stark

Joining her is Doodie Stark founder Liz Jefferson. After beginning her career as the assistant to John Galliano’s production manager before moving into distribution for brands including Valentino Jeans UK and Great Plains, she went on to open her first multi-brand boutique in 2010. Today Sussex-based Doodie Stark is an award-winning retail group with two physical stores including a 2,000sq ft destination boutique. At last year’s Boutique Star Awards it scooped the trophy for Creative VM Independent of the Year 2023.

James Crabtree, AIS

James Crabtree, head of fashion at Associated Independent Stores (AIS), has also been selected for this year’s panel. As the UK and Ireland’s largest retail buying agency, AIS is a membership organisation for independent retailers covering multiple categories while it also hosts a series of retail trade shows under the INDX banner. Coming from a wholesale background, James has worked at AIS for over 20 years gaining unique insight into the ever-changing requirements and importance of independent retail.

Andrew Goodacre, Bira

Meanwhile, Bira CEO Andrew Goodacre will also remain on the panel for the 2024 awards. Having devoted his career to strengthening Britain’s high streets, he helps ensure the needs of indie retailers are heard by key government decision makers. Over the year he has appeared before numerous parliamentary select committees to present evidence on a range of retail concerns – from the impact of the pandemic to supply chain inflation.

Diane Sykes, Diane Sykes Fashion Marketing

Diane Sykes, founder of Diane Sykes Fashion Marketing, is this year’s fifth judge. Beginning her career at a high-profile London showroom in the 1980s, she has gained experience in many aspects of the business from buying to merchandising to wholesale sales. Over the years she has helped drive the growth of many fashion brands. Today her agency supplies discerning indie retailers with premium womenswear collections from across Europe.

Catherine Erdly, The Resilient Retail Club

Small business and retail expert Catherine Erdly will also re-join this year’s panel. Having worked for high street brands such as Coast and Laura Ashley, she founded The Resilient Retail Club in 2018 offering expert support, education and encouragement to independent retailers, makers and brands. Catherine is an expert contributor for, a judge for the Good Retail Awards and on the editorial board for Modern Retail. She is also a regular speaker at trade events and on television and radio.

Gemma Ward, Boutique magazine

Finally, Boutique magazine editor Gemma Ward completes this year’s panel. With almost 20 years’ experience as a journalist in the fashion and small business sector, she has judged a wide range of industry awards throughout her career and regularly interviews some of the best fashion indies and brands in the business. 

First launched in 2019, the Boutique Star Awards are an annual celebration of the industry’s best independent fashion and lifestyle retailers, industry insiders and brands. This year’s competition includes 21 categories from Fashion Independent of the Year and Social Media Strategy of the Year to British Brand of the Year and Footwear Brand of the Year.   

Entries will undergo a preliminary round of judging based on the content submitted, and the shortlist for each category will be announced in August. The judging panel will meet in London this September to discuss the finalists and decide on the ultimate winners.