IT was a night of celebration, an evening when the very best of Reading was honoured.

The Reading Retail Awards once again hit new heights at the Hilton Hotel when the great and the good of the town's shopping sector gathered to pay tribute to the best of the best.

More than 3,500 nominations were received, with the biggest cheer of the black tie dinner reserved for independent baker, Warings, who were named as Retailer of the Year.

"We weren't expecting an award," admitted public relations manager, Dan Carr, who was there with his wife Vicky.

"We'd come along to celebrate all the other fabulous businesses in Reading. So to hear the announcer read out the business history of our company before receiving the award, well it really was an emotional moment."

Warings Craft Bakers is a small family business started in 1932 by Lawrence Webster Waring. The business continues to uphold its traditional family values and baking techniques with two grandchildren and a fourth generation of family all involved.

It now has shops in Burghfield, Caversham, Hartley Wintney, Spencers Wood, Thatcham, and two premises in Tilehurst at Armour Road and School Road.

Dan admitted that the popularity of the Great British Bake Off had strengthened the Warings brand. "The Great British Bake Off serves as a reminder of quality baking and how we produce products which are crafted and high quality," he added.

"Of course, over the years, we've faced increased competition from supermarkets and coffee shops, but Warings remains as relevant today as it ever has done.

"We are so happy that our customers have taken time to vote and support Warings. It means a lot."

The Reading Retail Awards, which are supported by the Reading Chronicle, are now in their seventh year. Former Chronicle reporter and now Meridian Tonight presenter, Sangeeta Bhabra, hosted the awards ceremony alongside Jack FM's Steve Randall.

Sangeeta, who attended Maiden Erlegh School and lives in Lower Earley, said: "I love everything about this town. It is always the place I head to for some retail therapy."

Former Oracle manager, Steve Belam, who now works for the shopping centre's owners Hammerson, as a regional general manager, paid tribute to Reading's retailers as he kicked-off the awards evening.

"Reading is the captial of shopping in the Thames Valley," he told the audience. "You are all responsible for making it so. We have all the best brands, and continue to attract the best in retail.

"In fact, we are one of the top destinations in the country. It's no mistake that we have retailers like Apple, Victoria Secrets, Mac, Kiehls, Ikea and many more, which is the envy of our competition in the Thames Valley who don't have these brands.

"Our business improvement district is one of the most successful. We are the benchmark for towns and cities all over the UK. And amazingly, these awards are still the only retail awards of their kind in the south of England."

Through a silent auction, diners raised money during the event for The Retail Trust, which provides a series of well-being services for those involved in retail, including counselling, financial planning, hardship support and legal guidance.