Behind the scenes at Rossi 1931: Shea Associates

Rossi has been fortunate to find quality, hardworking sales representatives. One such rep, actually an entire group of full time road reps, is Shea associates. Headed by Sandy Shea, this group of nine, cover all 6 New England States, as well as New York State. Founded in 1988 and celebrating 25 years in the gift and paper industry, Sandy has strived to find the highest quality, innovative and creative products to bring to her customers. She and her group have developed and nurtured wonderful relationships with many of the mid to high end paper and gift retailers in 7 states.

When you see the professionalism and commitment put forth, it’s easy to understand why Sandy has cultured wonderful and long term relationships with her manufacturers as well. That is quite an accomplishment in this business, but perhaps, in part, due to the fact that Sandy, with her Scottish Canadian roots and her rather strong Boston accent, paints a rather colorful character.

Sandy spent many years, prior to becoming an independent rep, with a major pen and stationery manufacturer and when they reorganized, she decided to go out on her own. So, she began with what she knew best: fine paper, eventually picking up gift lines. She was thrilled when she was offered the Rossi line in 1994, when, ”at that time, there was only one rep in the US, in California.”

She loves Rossi for “the beauty and class of the line”…and the pricing is great. ”It’s very reasonable for such beautiful, quality products. They have free shipping on any order over $500, which is very generous. The customers love it.”

She says the best sellers for her customers in New England are the gift wrap and decorative papers…both rolls and sheets. She has some very big and prestigious paper retailers in Boston “who just love this line.”

Her retailers also like the solid range of boxed notes and thank you notes. “Everything you get from Rossi is top of the line, right down to the boxes. So many American paper companies have good products, but the packaging is junky. With Rossi it’s all top notch.”

Because Boston and most of New England, is a huge college area, the journals and notebooks do very well also. “They are fabulous… with elastic bookmarks, they come in different sizes and designs, both classic Florentine and more contemporary designs. In both hard cover and soft.”

‘’All of Rossi’s price points are wonderful”, she continues. ”The greeting cards, packaged individually in cello, retail at around $2.50. You can’t beat it, you know.”

Shea associates has 2 showrooms. One in Hudson, Massachusetts at the Northeast Market Center and the other in Saco, Maine: Marketplace Maine. While these days are a bit easier with 2 showrooms and a computer program for ordering, it’s still a lot of work, but a lot of fun. It was not always that easy: She recalls the “good old days” when not having a showroom and doing both the Boston and New York shows; of “loading up a huge rental truck at 4 AM, and driving for hours in bumper to bumper traffic, through snowstorms into the city to set up the booths. We lugged carpets, backgrounds and boxes of samples and catalogues, standing for 13 hour days on concrete and hand writing orders. Oh, the fun of it all. Ha!”

She loves her “team”, especially two…one is her husband, Mike, (business manager and IT guru) and another her daughter, Becky. One could say, it’s a family affair now.

 Check out Shea Associates beautiful new website: www.sheagifts.com

 

Sandy (standing, 4th from left) and her associates.

May the force be with you. (The sales force, that is.)

The expression, “it takes a village “, not only applies to raising children, but getting a product such as Rossi Fine Papers into the hands of the consumer, as well. This village happens to be scattered from Italy across continents, but nonetheless, not unlike a close knit community. Rossi sales representatives are an integral part of getting those gorgeous products from their printing dept to the retailer and ultimately to the consumer.

WELOVE

What a lot of people don’t know is how it’s done!

Step one, is that Rossi management hires a “rep” or representative in a certain geographical region to show their products to appropriate local retailers. That representative will be the eyes, ears and mouth (and big fans!) of the company…and often for the retailer. They show the Rossi product line to new customers or “prospects” and offer promotions, share upcoming events, and introduce new designs and product to established customers. They sit with the store’s buyer and show the portfolios (or catalogues) and product. In turn, this is where the retailer gets to see, touch and discover the quality of the products, something they could never do, unless they are traveling within the Florence area or to a trade show.

A good sales rep will share what the best sellers in the line are; suggest colors or schemes/themes based on the look and ambiance of the store and its type of customer base: is it an upscale neighborhood where locals entertain a lot? Is it a destination store for parties or wedding invitations ? Do customers run in to grab a quick gift or a greeting card? A sales rep is really the consultant for the retailer and the ambassador for the manufacturer. They truly wear 2 hats. In turn, they take any requests, concerns or ideas for new designs, new colors, trends, back to Rossi or other manufactures.   They will keep the retailers informed of certain trends they have seen in the marketplace (that perhaps the store owner has not been introduced to, as yet).

They write orders in the store, process them in their office or showroom, and forward them to Rossi, whose order fulfillment team takes it from there.

Without these “nomads” who generally work long hours and drive many miles, it would be a much more difficult task to get fine paper and products like Rossi’s into the hands of consumers to be enjoyed and shared.  In the end, the rewards in representing the fine products of Rossi and others are truly worth it. It really does take a village!

US warehouse Rossi 1931

Interested in becoming a Rossi rep?

We are looking for independent reps with experience in stationery/gifts in the following areas : NJ, GA, FL and in Canada the Toronto area. 

 

Behind the Scenes: Sales and Marketing

Five Questions for Mattia Rossi:  An inside look at the Rossi brand from Mattia Rossi, who heads up the company’s sales and marketing efforts.

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from the left:  The Rossi’s,  Taddeo, Giorgio and Mattia
I’m sure customers would be interested to see three generations of Rossi historical archives… Do you have an in-house “museum” where you display your most interesting designs?  

The archive is very important, it holds many years of research and conservation. The material can be more or less expensive, from expensive art print books to simple postcards found at a market. Many items are from abroad. These have been accumulated over the years, not necessarily  something found and used for the collection that same year, sometimes it’s taken out years later.
Many of the items have an emotional value, which is probably the best part of it. An old magazine from the 30’s may generate an idea. It is a way to spread a culture, a taste.
During the 80’s Giorgio Rossi purchased an archive with art reproductions.
However, our archive is not open to the public, our staff may have access.
Over the years we have tried to acquire antique machineries and to restore them. In our factory we have dozens of antique machineries, partially still to be restored.

Your company does business in many countries, how do you appeal to the varying tastes of countries you are selling into, while staying true to your Italian heritage?  

Actually, it is true that we work with many countries, from Australia to New Zealand, Europe and North and South America and the number of countries increases every year. It is very important to remain within the Italian taste: vintage, retro, traditional Italian. The product has to be “recognizable” as 100% made in Italy, even before the customer sees the country of origin label. This intrinsic taste and value is perceived by the consumer. However, even if the made in Italy is the driving force, functionality, the right specs, the right price is what makes the product suitable for everyone.
Rossi has always had a special attention for the US market and not only because it’s an immense market but also because Americans have a cultural perception of stationery and the art of writing. There’s a tendency to anticipate trends which helps us to then be on the cutting edge in other countries as well.
As an example: Three years ago I was at the Stationery Show and I saw all this revival of letterpress, seen as a new trend while in Italy it was considered old, obsolete and old fashioned. Whereas an American printer saw it as an opportunity, an Italian printer discarded it as old.

Rossi is a true artisan brand—something  that  American companies are trying to build into their products these days. Tell us how you manage to avoid the “mass production” culture in your company and retain the high level of craftsmanship.

Taste, craftsmanship, quality, but if one wants to export his products into the world, one must be open to innovation and find a balance between taste and industrial culture.

I remember when I was a child, my father Giorgio ran the factory and there were many more workers than today (and probably less “feeling” for quality), my father used to say over and over again to those ladies: “Imagine it’s a box of chocolates and imagine how you want a box of chocolates: beautiful, impeccable, clean and perfectly made.”

In this age of electronic – everything, what is the hardest thing from a sales/marketing standpoint to keep your brand front and center with customers and prospects?

Electronics has helped us tremendously to become known globally, and in fact a lot of investments have been made in web-marketing. Communications are faster and easier and we’ve been able to speed up many tasks.  However the true ambassador of our company, beyond all technology, is our product, our brand and quality which enters in a shop or in a family, that is how a company wins faithful customers.

Tell us about your creative process and your creative team….. who does the wonderful artwork for your amazing patterns and designs? 

We start to work on the new products in June, so that the new products can be launched in January.  At first it’s sketches, designs, a study of what competitors are doing, new trends, brainstorming.  Then the sales are analyzed so that we can determine which products need to be increased and which collections should be decreased. Once the program is established, it is followed by various individuals and the new collection is created, both by internal design and graphic personnel, as well as by outside artists who work for us.

 

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