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VOL. 126 | NO. 99 | Friday, May 20, 2011

Crum Wins Entrepreneur Of the Year Award

By Allison Buckley

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After growing up with a family in the fabric industry, Kelly Crum, owner and president of American Clothing Express Inc., decided to create his own wholesale business in 1997. His efforts were recognized recently, when Crum received the 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year Award, presented by the Bartlett Area Chamber of Commerce.


“It was an honor to be its recipient,” Crum said. “I was surprised because I know there’s a lot of big business in Bartlett and the Memphis area.”

In the early years of American Clothing Express, eveningwear, prom dresses, bridal gowns and shoes were manufactured in China, and Crum would work directly with retailers. Today, the company’s label, “Allure,” is manufactured in China and advertised to consumers – who have put American Clothing Express at the top of the list when it comes to bridal wear and prom dresses.

Crum recently finalized the 2012 spring line. For three weeks, he looked over the 500 prototype designs released by the company every six months. After about two days, he and his team reduced the 500 designs to about 200, then he left for another city to check on the company’s five prom factories.

Crum said after clearing his mind, he and his team came back to the 200 designs and tweaked them, reducing them to about 185 styles. From there, they visited distributors in the United Kingdom, Australia, Russia and Canada before returning to Memphis to present the 185 bridal designs and about 450 prom dresses for customers and focus groups to rate.

The designs were reduced to about 150 prom dresses and 80 bridal gowns, which will become the 2012 spring line. Those designs will be photographed in New York for advertising and marketing purposes.

“It’s got to be the right package,” Crum said. “It’s got to be the right dress, the right picture of it, the right everything.”

American Clothing Express employs around 45 people, from designers to marketing specialists. Crum has had to relocate three times over the past decade and a half as the company has grown.

American Clothing Express started in 1997 in a retail strip mall behind Bridal Collection, a store Crum owned with his parents, William and Joan Crum. The company moved in 2005 to a 21,000-square-foot space at 8415 Wolf Lake Drive. They outgrew that space in three years. Crum and his team now work out of a 53,000-square-foot space at 3190 New Brunswick Road, which became the company’s new headquarters as of January.

Thankfully, according to Crum, the space allows his team to work upwards with high ceilings, which means the company should not have to relocate anytime soon.

Over the last two years – during the peak of the recession – American Clothing Express has seen its largest growth. Crum said this is because of its marketing plan.

“I think that our marketing plan is extremely beautiful,” Crum said. “We have a really good mix of social media and print, and I think that our pictures are probably the best in the industry.

“It’s a real challenge because this business changes. We’re seasonal every year. Trying to figure out what’s going to make a 17-year-old girl want to buy your dress is not an easy thing.”

–Kelly Crum
Owner and President,
American Clothing Express Inc.

“You know, that girl looks at (our designs) and falls in love with them because they’re beautiful, and I think that’s what it takes.”

The industry Crum is in can get stressful, he said, but he has no plans on changing his focus.

“It’s a real challenge because this business changes,” Crum said. “We’re seasonal every year. Trying to figure out what’s going to make a 17-year-old girl want to buy your dress is not an easy thing.”

PROPERTY SALES 55 127 3,204
MORTGAGES 30 92 2,192
BANKRUPTCIES 30 60 1,802