Michael Rossy LTD.
Michael Rossy Ltd. – or ‘Rossy’ as known to its customers – is a regional chain of almost 80 junior department stores in Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, and Ontario. While the history of Michael Rossy stores originated in 1949, the well-documented family history dates back to 1910. It was at that time when Syrian-born Salim Rossy – a father of ten – immigrated to Canada and opened a general store on Craig Street (now rue St. Antoine) near Montreal’s waterfront. As part of the family heritage, the Rossy family continues to operate several highly successful retail businesses across Canada. In the early 1950’s Michael Rossy Ltd. was founded by Michael Rossy Sr., who continued to serve as CEO of the company until 2010. Today, Michael Rossy Ltd. continues to operate as a family business led by son-in-law Michael DiTullio who is CEO and President. He continues to build the family business following the true Rossy entrepreneurial spirit; focusing on its customers and keeping low overhead with mid-size stores in smaller Canadian communities.
As a junior department store, Rossy sells a complete product mix from groceries, cleaning products, health and beauty aids, to toys, electronics, apparel, footwear and household linens. About 20 per cent of its overall merchandise mix consists of very recognizable brand names. The company strategy stems from its market positioning, focusing on smaller communities with population of 5,000 to 30,000 who can most benefit from Rossy’s store size and enormous selection of merchandise. A key objective of Rossy is to reduce the overall operational costs in these communities by way of negotiating favourable lease agreements.
“Our strategy is to enter these smaller communities that do not attract the large retailers due to their population,” says DiTullio. “The idea is that in these small communities we become the largest store in town, which allows us to offer the best pricing and create true value for everyone in the town. Our typical store is approximately 20,000 square feet, and what we strive to do is to serve the community as a department store with a full merchandise selection.”
Becoming a part of a community represents a strong marketing driver in smaller communities, where Rossy stores employ 15 to 25 people. As a family business, Rossy embraces its role in the community through building strong relationships with local organizations.
“Community participation is extremely important to us,” notes DiTullio. “We support the local communities. We are eager to participate in what is important to the community, from supporting local churches, to sponsoring the local hockey team and various other community events.”
In 2012, Rossy opened 11 stores, including its first 10 stores in Newfoundland. With the retracting economy, Rossy saw retailers withdrawing from geographical areas where a large operation became unviable. Rossy has seized the opportunity to fill that gap.
“With the current economy we see many challenges for retailers. Some retailers are closing stores and withdrawing from areas. This means landlords having increased number of vacancies, and this gives us the opportunity to expand and acquire leases at terms and costs we are willing to pay,” DiTullio reveals.
“Acquiring leases used to be a significant challenge in the past, but not anymore.”
With the 2008 global economic crisis, the company also saw a shift in customer approach to shopping, and one word started to define people’s shopping habits — value. The company continues to reduce costs for its customers by sourcing merchandise directly from Asia, but also maintaining a strong base of Canadian and U.S. suppliers. Rossy continues to look for the best value and selection of products for its customers.
“We have been very fortunate during the past several years as we have actually increased our business because we provide great value. We’re aggressive with our pricing and advertising and we’ve gained new customers as people seek higher value and don’t want to spend [more] money,” DiTullio continues. While building community relationships creates great marketing awareness, the company also applies traditional marketing by staying in touch with customers through promotions, be it through the company website, or its almost weekly flyers designed and produced by TVA Publication, a Quebecor Media company.
As a family business, Rossy controls its growth, preserving a steady growth pace, without overwhelming its existing staff. Even so, the company plans to continue to open another 10 to 12 stores annually in the upcoming years.
“We have a very loyal employee base with excellent tenure and experience. Our experienced employee base allows us to open our new stores this year without having to hire additional staff in our main facility,” says DiTullio.
Denis Portelance, Manager of Store Operations, adds, “Our strength is in our people, with average tenure of about 12 years. Even our store supervisors have the tenure of about 10 years, so they are very familiar with our operation, and during our growth we use them to train new store managers. For example, we have moved three of our existing managers to Newfoundland for six months to train our new managers, so inherently the new workforce and managers get the training consistent with Rossy’s standards. As an operation, the challenge remains the same — sourcing products that bring value to the consumer, while we work to get these products to the stores on time.”
A family business, Rossy plans to keep it that way, doing what’s good for the business, without the need to submit to outside pressures. The only pressure to which Rossy yields is customer satisfaction, as the new and returning customers expect a diverse selection of merchandise at a great value.