Fine jewelry chain Ross-Simons celebrated its 60th anniversary Sept. 14 at its Cranston, R.I., headquarters with a little help from local legislators.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and Cranston mayor Allan Fung both gave brief speeches at an outdoor reception, which “was mainly for staff and employees,” says Darrell Ross, president and CEO of Ross-Simons.
Darrell Ross accepting a 60th anniversary plaque from Governor Lincoln Chafee (courtesy of Ross-Simons)
“It’s easy to do these things in a small state when everyone knows each other,” adds Ross, whose late father, Sidney, founded the company in Providence, R.I., in 1952. But the illustrious turnout underscores just how important thriving, home-grown companies like Ross-Simons are to the city and state.
Over the past 60 years, Ross-Simons has grown from one to 14 retail locations sprawled across the East coast, from Massachusetts to Georgia. While countless jewelry retailers have scaled back operations during the recession, the company has created robust and lucrative catalogue and e-commerce branches.
Still, Ross says the simple act of staying afloat is the achievement he’s most proud of. “Jewelry is a tough business to start and a tough business to stay in,” he says. “It’s continually changing. Our ability to thrive is a function of our ability to change to the changing needs of our customers.”
Those needs include ramped-up expectations from customers. (“They want more service and faster, free shipping—and they deserve it,” says Ross.) And with the dawn of the Internet has come an increasingly knowledgeable shopper—one who “does research online and is much more sophisticated, whether they’re buying a certified diamond or an emerald,” he explains. “The mystery of jewelry has [fallen] away.”
A Ross-Simons store (courtesy of Ross Simons)
Another marked shift in consumer behavior has been a rising interest in brand-name merchandise—a trend that’s spilled over into fine jewelry from the fashion and digital industries over the past decade. “The emergence of brands has been very powerful,” says Ross. “Sixty years ago, everything was private label or generic. Now branding has become important as a complement to those offerings.”
Brands stocked at Ross-Simons include Roberto Coin, Kwiat, Simon G, Charriol, and Mikimoto.
To meet the new expectations, the company is perpetually “changing our product mix and changing the way we offer products to customers,” says Ross. “When you look back at 1952 and the vision my father had for the company, it’s amazing that we’re still around.”
The company’s plans for the future take this customer-centric strategy to the next level. “I think we’re on the right track,” Ross says. “Our customers are wanting more of a luxury experience with better product and the right brands…so we’re moving in that direction. Our particular niche is providing the customer with something that’s a little fashion-forward, but not so fashion-forward that they won’t wear it the next year. The most exciting part of the business is developing merchandise and working with manufacturers to create products at a great price point that our customer is proud to wear.”