BIRMINGHAM – The Alabama Retail Association (ARA) in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Business today recognized 12 outstanding Alabama retailers representing 10 retail businesses as “Retailers of the Year.” The presentations were made at the Cahaba Grand Conference Center in Birmingham during the 2010 Retail Day Luncheon. The event marked the 11th presentation of the Retailer of the Year Awards since 1999.
Jean Clayton, owner of Christine’s Inc., Christine’s Across the Street and Bagatelle, related gift, children’s and home concept linen shops, all in Mountain Brook, received the Gold Award in the “Annual Sales Less than $1 Million” category. Suzan Doidge, executive director of the Mountain Brook Chamber of Commerce, nominated Clayton for this prestigious award.
“Jean Clayton loves her business,” which she named for her mother, Doidge said in her nomination of Clayton. “(Clayton’s love) shows in the constantly changing vignettes in her store (every two to four weeks), in the immaculately maintained store displays and in the premium goods that she carries. Jean is the kind of retailer we all continue to WANT in our communities.”
Clayton has been a retail business owner for 42 years, four years in Fairhope and the remainder in Mountain Brook. Her passion for retail is deep and extends beyond just her retail enterprises. “Small business is a vital part of this country and too many mom and pop stores are becoming history as they can no longer compete with the Internet, wholesale clubs and discount stores,” Clayton wrote in her Retailer of the Year entry.
The store owner often shares her passion for retail with local clubs and organizations. “(Speaking) is an opportunity to educate people on the importance of shopping local and supporting small business,” she said. Doidge noted that Clayton also volunteers her time and expertise with the chamber “in areas as broad as decorating the village for an event to political activism for protecting the historic nature of the community.”
In a year when many small retailers cut back or shut their doors, Clayton opened her third store in July. “This speaks volumes for her belief in brick and mortar retail services and illustrates her belief in the strength of our unique villages and retail community,” Doidge said.
When business was down in 2009, Clayton trimmed costs by more than $1,000 a month. In April 2009, her 38-year-old gift shop, Christine’s, moved to a street with more visibility. The move paid off with sales steadily increasing since March
of this year. Even though she already was operating two businesses (Christine’s Across the Street, a children’s store that grew out of the gift shop 11 years ago, and the original Christine’s), in May, she decided to expand next door. The new store, bagatelle, is the first independently owned home concept store for Yves Delorme, a French linens and home accessories company.
“It’s her customer service that sets her businesses apart,” Doidge said. “Jean continues to provide her customers
with personalized service and ‘face time’ … She KNOWS her customers and strives to provide them with custom products that specifically suit their needs.” Clayton admits “I am personally on the floor five, and sometimes six, days a week.”
Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “Jean Clayton is a retailer of the year EVERY year to her customers, seven employees and the Mountain Brook community!”
Jean Clayton | 205.871.8297
Nancy Dennis, Alabama Retail Association | 334.263.5757 Ext. 101 | 800.239.5423