BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association (ARA) in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business today recognized 19 outstanding Alabama retailers representing 13 retail businesses as Retailers of the Year. The presentations were made at The Club in Birmingham during the 2011 Retail Day Luncheon. This marked the 12th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Alabama Retail Association board member Denise Knox, owner and president of Private Gallery Inc. based in Fairhope, this year earned the Gold Retailer of the Year award in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million Category. In 2002, she was recognized as the Bronze Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales Less Than $2 Million Category, and, in 2004, she was honored as the Silver Retailer of the Year in the Annual Sales $2 Million to $10 Million Category. Knox was nominated for the 2011 award by Marissa Fleming, Private Gallery’s marketing director, who worked for the company in high school and college then returned after working several years with a public relations firm; and Danette Richards, director of Small Business Development for the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce. Private Gallery has been an ARA member since 2009. The Retailer of the Year judges summed up their assessment of Denise Knox and Private Gallery in one word: “incredible.”
Knox began Private Gallery in 1996 as a home-based business offering customers their own “private gallery” of jewelry and accessories. She has grown the venture into 15 brick-and-mortar stores in six states in addition to an Internet presence, employing 183. Seven of her stores are in Alabama. Private Gallery is a woman’s clothing, jewelry and accessories boutique, with clothing from well-known labels, up-and-coming designers and a private label Knox personally designs. Private Gallery has gained national recognition as a leader in fashion and a Southern trendsetter. “It is because of Knox and Private Gallery that so many Alabamians truly love their job and love shopping at our homegrown fashion hot spot,” Fleming said in her nomination.
The company doubled its profits in 2010 and experienced a growth spurt that has continued into 2011, beginning in February 2010 with the expansion of its Fairhope flagship store. Growth continued in April 2010 with a new location in Athens, Ga., bringing the number of stores in that state to two. In June of 2010, Private Gallery moved its Auburn location into a larger storefront on the college town’s main street, North College. In August 2010, the Jacksonville, Fla., store doubled in size with its move to one of the Top 10 shopping centers in the country. The once tiny Orange Beach store, in spite of the Gulf oil spill, experienced a 25 percent increase in sales, which led to expanding that location to triple its size during a 2011 renovation, completed just in time for this year’s Spring Break.
“Denise has proven herself time and again as an amazing professional in the retail industry,” Fleming said in her nomination. “She is a huge advocate for shopping locally, and she takes great pride in having her business based in Alabama.”
Knox doesn’t keep her enthusiasm for our state to herself. In her nomination of Knox, Richards said, “Denise Knox is a highly respected business leader who as a member of the Alabama Speaker of the House Commission on Job Creation traveled across Alabama meeting with small business owners for feedback and ideas to stimulate job growth.” The commission released its report in May, and the Alabama Legislature already acted on several of its recommendations.
Knox’s greatest passion is for her employees, 99 percent of which are women. She conducts semi-annual manager meetings focused on professional development and has started an annual corporate-wide employee retreat. By continuing to provide employees with up-to-date information on fashion trends, sales tips and tips on running a successful business in a professional setting, Knox maintains a fun working environment of “productive play,” not “work,” Fleming said.
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Denise Knox is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, employees, the state of Alabama and the other states where her stores are located.”