SCOTTSBORO / BIRMINGHAM – Oct. 18, 2016 – Only one retailer in the world exists where the merchandise being unpacked on any given day could include a stuffed goose, moose antlers, vacuum-packed frogs or a $46,000 presidential platinum Rolex watch along with a mountain of clothes and choice electronics. “I think the one that takes the cake has to be the live rattlesnake we got in,” said Brenda Cantrell, brand ambassador for Unclaimed Baggage Center in Scottsboro.
From 5,000 to 7,000 items get processed daily in the sprawling retail complex, where all told more than one million items pass through annually, including cameras, sporting goods, jewelry, books and, of course, luggage. Not everything that comes in is sold; one-third is donated, one-third is thrown away and only the remaining third makes its way onto the sales floor or is displayed as a “found treasure” in the store’s museum or on the walls throughout the complex. The merchandise emanates from purchasing agreements with airlines for the fraction of bags orphaned when the airlines fail to reunite them with their owners after 90 days of trying.
Unclaimed Baggage Center “is a destination location,” said the Alabama Retailer of the Year judges. Scottsboro, Jackson County and the state of Alabama benefit. “You aren’t going to spend your day without going out to eat, looking at another place down the street” or making a stop elsewhere in the state, the judges said.
Being an exemplary corporate citizen and treating their employees well, while putting Scottsboro on the radar of shoppers worldwide, earned Owner and Chief Executive Bryan Owens, President Mike Elkins and Unclaimed Baggage Center the title of Alabama’s 2016 Gold Retailer of the Year Award in the Annual Sales $5 Million to $20 Million category. The Alabama Retail Association, in cooperation with the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business, honored Owens and Elkins today at the Alabama Retail Day luncheon in Birmingham. In 2007, Unclaimed Baggage was the Bronze Retailer of the Year in a different sales category. Doyle and Sue Owens started the company in 1970 and had incorporated by 1978. Their son, Bryan, bought the family business in 1995 and directed its expansion. State Sen. Steve Livingston, R-Scottsboro, one of five people who nominated the retailer for the honor, said, “Unclaimed Baggage Center is not only a leader in how they train their staff and invest in their employees, they are a leader in giving back to our community.”
Elkins said the company focuses on the drive home for both its team members and customers. “We believe that a place you love to work is a place you love to shop,” he said, adding the goal is a smile on the faces of employees and customers alike when they leave the store. Team members have “been developed, trained, challenged and rewarded for a successful day,” he said. “We believe the moment you get in your car is the moment we should own. When you get in your car, at that moment, that’s when you decide if you are going to come back, or if you are going to tell a friend.”
Unclaimed Baggage Center, an Alabama Retail member since May, was one of 13 retail businesses honored at today’s luncheon. This year’s winners came from a pool of more than 70 nominees. The Alabama Retailer of the Year awards program, started in 1999, honors outstanding retailers who have demonstrated growth, innovation and a commitment to their respective communities.
“Bryan Owens and Mike Elkins are retailers of the year EVERY year to the Unclaimed Baggage Center customers, its 162 employees, the Scottsboro community and the entire state of Alabama,” 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 4,100 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.