Thinking Outside the Box
About this time nine years ago I was getting set to be married, so I registered my china and crystal patterns with a Big Department Store’s bridal registry. Then, a funny thing happened: I started receiving boxes at my home from someplace called Ross-Simons.
“What store is this?” I asked my mother, for while it carried the precise gifts I had selected, I had neither been there nor heard of it. “It’s not a store. It’s a catalog,” she replied.
More recently, in the fall of 1997 my sister was wed. For her bridal registry, she chose to skip the Big Department Store and jumped online, accessing Ross-Simons’ bridal registry at www.ross-simons.com.
“Our bridal registry was one of the first pieces of our business that we put on our Web site because it made so much sense,” says Peter Howard, vice president, marketing for Ross-Simons.
Since its Web site first debuted in early 1996, Ross-Simons has made great strides in turning what was initially a lead generation and bridal registry tool into a fully integrated electronic version of its catalog—no small feat for a traditional, conservative catalog retailer that no one would dare call “cutting edge” at first glance.
“We had a fairly simple site at first,” Howard admits, noting that in its early stages, www.ross-simons.com was primarily a lead generator for the catalog and a vehicle for the bridal registry. Largely in response to industry trends and following the lead of some other catalogers, Howard says that he and company president Darrell Ross were prepared to make a reasonable investment in the Web by 1997.
“We wanted to be ready for e-commerce, but we didn’t want to overreact and spend millions,” Howard says of the company’s slow-but-sure strategy. “While the Web is an area where we see the potential for a lot of growth, our core business is still our print catalogs.”