The 2012 Oracle Retail Week Awards have been a unique experience.

The 2012 Oracle Retail Week Awards have been a unique experience. As my inaugural event as editor-in-chief of Retail Week, they have proven a dramatic reminder – if any was needed – as to why retail is the most dynamic and exciting industry in British business.

This entrepreneurial spirit is epitomised by Lord Harris of Peckham, founder and chairman of Carpetright, and the recipient of the award for Outstanding Contribution to Retail. Lord Harris is one of British industry’s giants and his journey from fledgling retailer to the driving force behind a carpet empire of over 630 stores epitomises the opportunities retail offers to those with the right desire that few sectors can match. That this has been achieved while also establishing himself as one of the UK’s leading philanthropists makes these achievements all the more remarkable.

The economic winds that currently blow down the UK high street are the most severe in two generations. Yet what’s clear from the quality of entries at this year’s event is that Harris’ drive is mirrored across retail.

The tough climate has only served to sharpen store chiefs’ resolve to innovate. The Government’s arsenal to stimulate growth may look bare, but retailers are armed with the tools – through an explosion of new technologies – the talent and resolve to carve out new markets and connect with customers in ever more dynamic ways.

In over a decade covering the FMCG sector, I have often heard the UK referred to as the “shop window of the world”, not simply for the quality and quantity of international brands it attracts to its shelves, but because its businesses and practitioners are the envy of the globe.

In these difficult times, events outside our control can seemingly overwhelm the business agenda. Lord Harris and the other winners of this year’s awards are a timely reminder that individual endeavour and inspiration remain the true drivers shaping our future.