Ross Records: Four decades on and still going strong

POPULAR Ben and Tanya Ross who have run Ross Records in Kingston since 1982. Picture: Ian Hargreaves  (14124-4)
POPULAR Ben and Tanya Ross who have run Ross Records in Kingston since 1982. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (14124-4)
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As other second-hand music, games, and DVD shops have come and gone, one has remained a constant in Portsmouth.

And this year Ross Records, on Kingston Road, has achieved a remarkable milestone – 40 years in the business.

Ross Records in Kingston.

Ross Records in Kingston.

Founder Ben Rossiter is still a familiar face behind the counter, dispensing advice as well as records.

In the back there are thousands of second-hand CDs waiting to be put out on the shelves and they are still doing a roaring trade while others have foundered.

Ben started out further down in Fratton Road in a completely different business – removals and deliveries.

He says: ‘It all started because when I was moving people they shoved all the stuff in the vans. We’d get it all there and they couldn’t fit it in the house. Then they’d ask me to get rid of it for them.

‘I also started buying records and decided there was more money in that and they were easier to deal with.’

Ben has seen a huge amount of change over the years. Starting off with cassettes, children would also queue out the door to play on arcade games such as Space Invaders.

‘We had about eight arcade machines and the kids used to come in after school and drive me mad,’ says Ben, smiling at the memory.

‘They’d pick up records while they were there. I still get some of them coming in now with their kids and it’s nice to see them.’

When the market for hiring videos began in the early 80s Ben opened the city’s first shop, in Kingston Road. It was a lucrative market and cost £50 to join.

He says: ‘The queue would be huge and we’d go along giving out glasses of wine so they didn’t walk off.’

When CDs came along in 1983 it changed everything for Ben.

Again, he was at the forefront and had more stock than HMV.

He said: ‘I was delighted because they needed something new. I had been saying for years that records were so out of date and finally they listened!

‘I knew a rep who took me to his house and showed me the first Sony CD. I thought it was beautiful. We looked at it and thought it was amazing.

‘The sound was beautiful, they were easier to use, and very marketable.

‘People would say “they’re never going to take over from vinyl” and there were rumours they didn’t work properly.

‘But after a few years we had to get rid of all our vinyl because we couldn’t sell it.’

Because the price of new albums has been driven down so low – just £1 profit per CD – Ben now only sells second-hand. But he does sell some new games and consoles and it’s still a thriving business – if you do it properly.

Ben and his wife Tanya say they are sad to have seen Focus Sounds, in Waterlooville, close recently but are delighted to still be going strong after four decades.

‘A lot of record shops have come and gone over the years,’ says Tanya.

‘What makes us successful is that we’re fair. Multinationals have a lot of advantages but they can’t react as quickly as us to change prices. And we have Ben, he is so good at what he does.’

Tanya works alongside her husband. She has a passion for film and relishes her job.

Rare and valuable films and box sets come in, such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s Lost World.

‘None of it’s in alphabetical order so people spend hours looking through them,’ says Tanya.

‘They come in looking for one thing and go out with armfuls of other films.

‘And we go to the cinema three times a week. My favourite are the old black and white films.

‘I’ve got a huge knowledge of everything from anime to wrestling.’

Ross Records is still the first port of call for people who want to sell their collections.

Some people bring in hundreds of CDs and DVDs at a time.

Every single disc, DVD and game is thoroughly cleaned and pristine before it is put on the shelves.

Ben added: ‘We’re still doing a good trade. Not as good as 10 years ago but Blockbuster has gone, and HMV and Game have had their wobbles.

‘Over the years the economy and downloads will affect us to a degree but not to the degree of putting us out of business. We’re still doing well. We will hang on for as long as possible.

‘Yes, I could retire, but I still love what I do.’