Simply Fashion Owners Earn Gold Retailer of the Year Title

BIRMINGHAM – The  Alabama Retail Association, 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.

 Rodney and Mark Barstein and the Janak Shah family, owners of Simply Fashion Stores Ltd. ,  earned the Gold Retailer of the Year award in the Annual Sales More Than $20 Million Category. Birmingham-based Simply Fashion has been in business for 20 years, has 325 stores in 22 states and employs 1,860. Twenty-three of those stores and more than 200 associates are in Alabama. Rick Roth, president of ImageWorks, a Birmingham advertising and marketing business that provides printed logo items for Simply Fashion, nominated the Barsteins and Shah family for this award. Rodney Barstein served as ARA’s chairman for the 2000-2001 term, and Simply Fashion has been an Alabama Retail member since 1992.


The Retailer of the Year judges lauded Simply Fashion for remembering its core customer, identifying well with customers, focusing on a product mix strategy and having an incredible social media strategy.


Brothers Rodney and Mark Barstein and the Janak Shah family brought this retail chain out of bankruptcy only a few months after purchasing it in 1991. The Barsteins come by their retailing finesse naturally. Their Russian immigrant grandfather, Morris Barstein; uncle, Max Corenblum; and father, Mervyn Barstein, built Bargain Town USA to 60 stores before selling it. When the company that bought the stores collapsed, the Barstein brothers and Shah family bought what was then Simply 6. Simply 6, which at first sold only items priced $6 and below, soon became Simply Fashion, a more diverse operation that still keeps most items below $10. Simply Fashion finds success with small stores in heavily populated cities. Rodney Barstein is president and chief executive officer, while Mark Barstein serves as executive vice president and general merchandise manager.


The past two years have been busy for Simply Fashion.  In 2010, it opened 36 stores, including two in Alabama, remodeled 20 and relocated six stores, while creating more than 200 new jobs. So far in 2011, it has opened 27 stores, including three in Alabama, remodeled five and relocated one store, while creating more than 150 new jobs.

While busy increasing sales and expanding into new markets, Simply Fashion also has improved relationships with its customers. By embracing social media (more than 11,000 facebook likes and almost 600 Twitter followers), this retailer has been able to position itself as the best source of affordable clothing for the urban woman, as well as an information source for health, beauty and lifestyle tips.  Preferred guests also receive special text messages and/or emails about what is happening in their particular Simply Fashion store.  Simply Fashion even has its own radio network, a unique aspect of the company that impressed the judges. Music selections change throughout the day or week based on the type customer in the store at the time; in-house commercials promote special events, sales and new arrivals; and the network broadcasts last-minute directions and reminders to the store manager five minutes before opening.

Simply Fashion cares for its employees. A corporate office exercise room allows associates there to work out for up to 90 minutes each week while on the clock. When the April 27 tornadoes wiped out Simply Fashion’s Tuscaloosa store, all of the associates affected were paid for a month’s wages immediately, even though the store had only opened two months prior, Roth said. An Associate Relief Program has been in place for such disasters for years. The home office had a drive to encourage donations of money, clothes and household items after the April tornadoes. One associate was given a car and several received numerous household items donated by associates and outside vendors who wanted to help. “Several associates have been with Simply Fashion for 20 years and many for 10 to 15 years plus,” Roth said in his nomination. “The culture is: We “Simply” NEED you to succeed. Having witnessed firsthand for the past 20 years, I can honestly say Simply Fashion folks enjoy their jobs and love the management and opportunities extended.

Alabama Retail Association President Rick Brown said, “The Barsteins and the Janak Shah family are retailers of the year EVERY year to their customers, employees, the state of Alabama and the communities in the 22 states where their stores are located.

>>Full list of 2011 Retailers of the Year
>>Previous Retailers of the Year


The Alabama Retail Association represents retailers, the largest private employer in the state of Alabama, before the Alabama Legislature and the U.S. Congress. Our 4,000 independent merchant and national company members sell food, clothing, furniture and other general merchandise at more than 6,000 locations throughout Alabama. ARA promotes what is best for the retailing industry in Alabama and has been doing so since 1943. From legislation to education, through communication and member services, ARA members benefit from the value of membership in their association. Retail works!

MEDIA CONTACT: Nancy King Dennis | 334.551.0643 | 800.239.5423

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