With more than 120 years under its belt in the Hampton Roads area, Retail Alliance has undoubtedly proven its ability to contribute positively to local businesses. Retail Alliance is the champion advocate for Hampton Roads’ small businesses.
“In 1903, the Retail Merchant Association was created to address issues such as advertising and taxes,” says Jenny Crittenden, Retail Alliance president and CEO. “The team at Retail Alliance works hard to provide local businesses with trusted guidance, current information, encouragement, education and advocacy to help them be successful,” she says.
“We are a membership organization with more than 400 members, but we also work from an advocacy standpoint for all retailers in Virginia,” says Crittenden. “We offer various member levels and charge an annual fee. Retailers can apply via our website, or they can email us. We have a membership account executive on our team who will travel to different cities, visiting and getting to know retailers to create relationships to make them feel a part of the retail community.”
Retail Alliance works to educate the community about how to best operate their businesses and helps them to obtain resources. “We do have a foundation, the Retail Alliance Foundation, with a purpose to educate retailers in the greater Hampton Roads region; we do sometimes reach beyond those borders,” Crittenden says. “Our Certificate in Retail Operations (CROPS) program is a 14-week course, and we help people to learn successful business behaviors. We partner with Hampton University students for some of these classes, people who are thinking about owning businesses or those who already do. They can join these classes and send their employees. We’ve had lots of support building this program from other businesses and institutions; it is a great service to the community.”
Helping small businesses succeed has been a passion of Crittenden’s long before she joined the Retail Alliance team over a year and a half ago. “I previously worked for the Main Street Association of Gloucester, and I was also an executive director for the Gloucester Trust,” she says. “We did a lot of work revitalizing the downtown area and worked on community development. We also embraced the retailers on the street and learned more about how to position them for growth.”
Since transitioning to the Retail Alliance team, Crittenden continues her passion for helping business owners daily while keeping things fresh and unique. “There is no normal workday for me, and that’s part of why I like it,” the CEO says. “Of course, most days include meeting with the team or sitting down with our membership account executive to find out what’s really happening out in the trenches with our retailers and learning about their needs so we can better assist them. Our team is very relaxed with each other; we have a deep understanding of one another. I love that we have a common goal as a team to help local retailers.
“The people are my favorite part of this position. My staff is incredible; I am so grateful to work with them. I also enjoy the retailers with whom we engage. I have always enjoyed the stories from retailers,” Crittenden says. “Every single retailer or small business owner has a unique story. We learn what their personal reasons are for opening, and their goals and missions for their business. When we dive into those details, we learn who the retailer is at the core, and that, to me, is so important.”
When Crittenden isn’t working, she enjoys traveling, taking an annual hiking trip to a national park with her brother (who lives across the country), going to the beach and taking her rescue dog for walks.
Looking to the future, Retail Alliance has some exciting things planned, including a women’s retreat in February 2024 in Virginia Beach for women in business.
“Our message going forward is that retail matters. It is generational, represents diversity and contributes to the economy. Some of these businesses are veteran-owned, and they give back. We have learned so much about retailers and what they can do,” Crittenden says.
TO THE POINT:
Address: 838 Granby St., Norfolk, VA 23510
Contact: Jenny Crittenden, president and CEO