MONTGOMERY / AUBURN – The 2018 Retailer of the Year judges called the entry submitted for The Locker Room in Montgomery and Auburn “the best (of the 54) we read. It covered everything we are looking for” – sales performance, business expansion, technology innovation, marketing strategy, promotion of the retail profession and community service.
Today, George R. Wilder, owner and chief executive officer of the two men’s stores, was named Alabama’s 2018 Gold Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales $1 Million to $5 Million category at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham. Wilder was the Silver Retailer of the Year in the same sales category in 2009. Carr, Riggs & Ingram CPAs and Advisors, Slappey Communications and the University of Alabama’s Culverhouse College of Business were the luncheon sponsors.
The award judges also called Wilder’s nomination submitted by five members of his staff and the account manager for his advertising agency the “most impressive of the bunch.” Wilder was nominated by John Lee, sales/buyer, Matthew Sease, marketing operations; plus sales associates Hamilton Smith, Josh Davis and Tom Moore; as well as Laura Hicks, account manager for Stamp Idea Group. “He’s been a mentor to all of us. He has been like a second dad,” said Lee, who has worked at The Locker Room for 19 years. “We are very fortunate to work for somebody like him.” The owner cultivates his staff, often hiring them as college students. “Few specialty stores anywhere can match our almost zero turnover and the longevity of our staff,” Wilder said.
Wilder, a Mississippi native, began his career working at a men’s clothing store in high school. After college, he and his wife, Madeliene, moved to Tuscaloosa and, for five years, he managed a store there, also called The Locker Room. “In Tuscaloosa, I became friends with a great group of folks from Montgomery who encouraged me that Montgomery needed a good, traditional men’s store,” said Wilder. He opened his own store in Alabama’s Capital City in 1977. “In 2010, we recognized a real need for a better men’s store in Auburn and opened our second store in August of that year,” Wilder wrote in his entry.
In a recent interview, Wilder explained his sales philosophy this way: “We are in the relationship business here. We sell incredible clothing, but the business we are in is a service business.” His entry further clarified: “We are the experts in helping men dress appropriately for whatever the occasion, business, social or casual.”
The Retailer of the Year judges lauded Wilder for bringing together a group of non-competitive, men’s specialty stores from across the country, which created a private label brand, called Mercer Blue; for creation of another exclusive brand in Auburn known as Plains Wear; and for gaining the use old Auburn University and University of Alabama “vault logos” on a line of premium men’s sportswear.
Wilder, a past Alabama Retail Association board chairman, is a tireless retail advocate, testifying before state legislative committees and traveling to Washington, D.C., to meet with lawmakers. In 2015, he was honored as one of the nation’s top Retail Champions. He has been outspoken in his support of marketplace fairness and the recent Supreme Court decision opening the way for states to require remote sellers to collect sales taxes. “It was great to see common sense, finally, after all these years,” he said.
The Locker Room, an Alabama Retail Association member since 1993, was one of 13 retail businesses honored today as Retailers of the Year. This year’s winners came from a pool of almost 100 nominees.
“George Wilder is a retailer of the year EVERY year to The Locker Room customers, his 15 employees and the Montgomery, Auburn and surrounding communities,” said Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown.
The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Through sales of food, clothing, furniture, medicine and more, our 4,200 independent merchant and national company members touch almost every aspect of daily living. Since 1943, we’ve worked to promote what’s best for the retail industry in Alabama. Whether voicing the retail view when public policy is made, educating members about issues that impact them, negotiating rates for benefits and services or communicating the retail story, the Alabama Retail Association and its members are better together.