Ross wants to let you dress (and lots more) for less. A leading off-price apparel retailer (behind TJX Cos. and Kohl's), Ross operates more than 1,300 Ross Dress for Less and dd's DISCOUNTS stores that sell closeout merchandise, including men's, women's, and children's clothing, at prices well below those of department and specialty stores. While apparel accounts for more than half of sales, it also sells small furnishings, toys and games, luggage, and jewelry. Featuring the Ross "Dress for Less" trademark, the chain targets 18- to 54-year-old white-collar shoppers from primarily middle-income households. Ross and dd's stores are located in strip malls in more than 30 states, mostly in the western US and Guam.
With its headquarters in California, Ross has more than a quarter of its 1,210 stores in 33 states (including Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Georgia), the District of Columbia, and Guam. The company's distribution centers and warehouses are in Pennsylvania, South Carolina, and California.
Ross Stores operates two brands of off-price retail apparel and home fashion stores: Ross Dress for Less and dd's DISCOUNTS. Ross is the largest off-price apparel and home fashion chain, offering first-quality, in-season, name-brand, and designer apparel, as well as accessories, footwear, and home decor at between 20%-70% off department and specialty store regular prices. Launched in 2004, dd's DISCOUNTS serves one of the fastest-growing demographic markets in the US. The ultra-low-price spinoff, which offers brand-name apparel at a 20%-70% discount, has grown to more than 150 locations in about 15 states, including big ones such as California, Florida, and Texas. The stores, which average 26,100 square feet, are located in strip shopping centers in urban and suburban neighborhoods.
The retailer operates five distribution processing facilities: two each in California and South Carolina and one in Pennsylvania. These distribution centers are the sole source of its stores merchandise. By the end of 2015, Ross Stores anticipates investing in two new distribution centers. (A distribution center in Shafter, California was under construction in 2014).
Additionally, the discounter owns two and leases three other warehouse facilities for packaway storage. To distribute merchandise to stores on a regular basis, Ross Stores enlists the help of third-party cross docks. Shipments are made by contract carriers to stores between three and six times per week depending on the location.
Sales and Marketing
Ross Stores, which spent $72 million on advertising in fiscal 2015, relies primarily on television as a medium to share the Ross Dress for Less value proposition with its current and potential customers. The company believes that television advertising is the most efficient and cost-effective medium while it continues to use additional channels to build brand awareness. However, advertising for its dd's DISCOUNTS stores is focused on new store grand openings and local grass roots initiatives.
Ross Stores has seen its sales jump to $11 billion in fiscal 2015 from $5.9 billion in fiscal 2008. The fast-growing chain saw its fiscal 2015 (ends January) revenues grow by 8% mostly due to contributions from 86 new stores and a slight increase in sales at existing stores.
The revenue uptick lifted net income by 10% that year.
The company's operating cash flow grew by 34% in fiscal 2015 due to due to higher net earnings and an increase in accounts payable leverage (defined as accounts payable divided by merchandise inventory). Changes in accounts payable leverage are primarily driven by the levels and timing of inventory receipts and payments.
The company’s expansion strategy is to open additional stores based on market penetration, local demographic characteristics, competition, expected store profitability, and the ability to leverage overhead expenses.
Ross Stores' off-price business model appears to be just the right fit for both during and after the recession. Amid strong sales the retailer is adding stores. Over the past four years, the company has added about 235 new locations, including many dd's DISCOUNTS shops. New markets for the retailer include Illinois and the District of Columbia. In fiscal 2015 the company opened 73 new Ross stores and 22 new dd's Discounts.
Going forward the company plans to continue adding stores in existing markets, while opening Ross and dd's stores in new markets. To boost its relationships with suppliers, Ross does not require them to provide markdown/promotional allowances or return privileges. This, combined with opportunistic purchases (closeouts such as manufacturer overruns and canceled orders), allows the company to obtain large discounts on merchandise. As a result, Ross Stores' customers typically pay 20% to 60% less than department and specialty store prices. Ross holds down costs by offering minimal service and few frills inside its stores.