TUSCUMBIA – Ashley Morrow, Joseph “Skip” Nichols and Josh Kelley, owners of The Shoppes at Coldwater in Tuscumbia, have been named Alabama’s 2021 Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year. “This happens when you have the greatest team and greatest customers that can be found anywhere,” Morrow said today when presented with the award.
The Shoppes at Coldwater is a women’s boutique specializing in apparel and gifts for grown-up women. After eight months as a pop-up travel store, the business opened its brick-and-mortar location in May 2019. Within the year, however, the retail landscape changed significantly.
“When quarantine happened, we started offering LIVE sales almost every day or evening,” Morrow said. The store also created COVID Care Packages, which customers could purchase and have sent to friends and family, plus care packages that could be purchased for health-care workers. “All of this work, doing the Live sales, teaching people how to buy from us online and through the app has absolutely changed our business,” Morrow said. The owners also donated their time to training and one-on-one coaching sessions to help struggling businesses navigate the pandemic.
“One of the hallmarks of a successful retailer of any size and in any region in the state is their ability to adapt and change when society and the economy call for it,” said Tuscumbia Mayor Kerry Underwood in recommending the business for the award. “The Shoppes at Coldwater Lead Retail Therapist Ashley Morrow along with her partners Skip Nichols and Josh Kelley have embraced new and innovative ways … to connect with others.”
“Our team made funny videos, did hair and makeup tutorials, read children’s books, just anything that would engage and connect with our customers who were quarantined at home who were lonely or scared about what was happening in the world,” Morrow said. Customers responded to their innovation. Sales for 2020 were up 73% over 2019, and the first quarter of 2021 was up 88% over the previous year.
“Ashley’s business has been a beacon during an otherwise very difficult year,” said Caitlin Holland, president of the Shoals Chamber, who nominated the retailer for the award.
As one of the Retailer of the Year judges said, “Their sales are up significantly. They do a lot for the community. They really excel at every criterion on which we voted – sales performance, business expansion, technology and innovation, marketing strategy, promotion of the retail industry and community service.”
The Gee Emerging Retailer of the Year Award is named in memory of the late Morris “Mickey” Gee, a former Alabama Retail board member and University of Alabama at Birmingham professor. The award is given annually to an innovative and effective Alabama retailer who has been in business for at least two years, but less than five. Gee, who owned the Pants Store for more than 30 years, realized that the first five years are tough, but young businesses can have a huge impact. This is the first year a Shoals area retailer has been named the Emerging Retailer of the Year.
“Ashley Morrow, Skip Nichols and Josh Kelley are retailers that stand out every day to The Shoppes at Coldwater customers, its six employees, the Tuscumbia and the Shoals 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 4,300 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.