Ross taps the thrill of the bargain hunt
As shoppers demand discounts, the off-price merchant plans to expand and launch an even-lower-priced chain
Indeed, consumers have become increasingly adept at switching gears in recent years, moving from department stores and specialty stores to discounters to warehouse clubs. Off-price stores often are just one stop along the path.
Iraq war, a weak economy and tough competition.
But the company is upbeat about its prospects and plans to be in every state eventually.
"Ultimately, for retailers it's about execution," Call said. "And we execute pretty well."
Analysts tend to agree.
"There's clearly been a paradigm shift," said David Mann, an analyst with Johnson Rice & Co. "Consumers now shop the off-price sector more consistently, more frequently. They go into the stores to browse that treasure hunt atmosphere."
Persistence pays off
Finding the "treasure," however, can take a heap of hunting.
Ross stores often have limited colors and sizes in a given style.
Also, the stores tend to get messier as the day wears on because customers are "in there sorting through everything," spokeswoman Loughnot said. They are "recovered" by the next shopping day, she added.
A women's lingerie rack at the Ross store in Santa Ana included a snuggly baby outfit and robes without belts. A T-shirt on the clearance aisle appeared to have been splattered with grease. Discarded clothing was slung over racks.
About 5 percent of the clothes Ross sells have slight imperfections, such as crooked stitching, but the company does not buy damaged goods, such as pants with a broken zipper, Loughnot said. Merchandise damaged after the purchase will end up on the clearance rack, she said.
Robbie Roth, shopping at the Santa Ana store recently with her 12-year-old son, Chris, said she had a little trouble warming to Ross, which is so different from the Nordstrom she used to patronize. "I used to hate this kind of store," said the 52-year-old escrow officer from Los Alamitos. "But now it's an adventure."