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Delighting customers at Stauffers of Kissel Hill
Flowers and garden centers are a winning combination for this Pennsylvania company.
by Cynthia L. McGowan

     At Stauffers of Kissel Hill, an ideal mix of grocery, garden, flowers and home décor earns this central Pennsylvania company customer loyalty and accolades. And when shoppers need assistance, they know friendly, helpful employees will make sure all their needs are met.
“We create relationships with customers,” emphasizes Debi Drescher, director of marketing and branding. Stauffers aims to nurture those relationships in every aspect of its business, from hiring the right employees to providing excellent customer service and offering a large array of high-quality products and services.


local roots

     Stauffers of Kissel Hill, headquartered in Lititz, in the heart of Pennsylvania Dutch/Amish country, has deep roots in the community. Roy Stauffer Sr. began the company in 1932 with a fruit stand, and today it has grown to three supermarket/garden center locations and six stand-alone garden centers.
     “We’ve been in business 80 years,” Ms. Drescher shares. “We’re a local company, we live here and our customers know us.”
     Stauffers practices being a good neighbor by supporting community events and by buying products locally when possible, indicating those items with special logos. “We’re connecting back to the community” by buying locally, Ms. Drescher explains. “The fact that we’re supporting other local businesses” is important to Stauffers’ clientele.

the stauffers culture
Also important to customers is Stauffers’ culture of customer service, embodied in employees who deliver on Stauffers’ motto of “We Delight Shoppers.” Confirms Ms. Drescher, “Our employees really make the difference.”
Adds Jere Stauffer, chief operating officer of the garden center operation, “We work hard to treat customers differently, to treat them like people and not just another sale.” That means creating an engaging experience for customers by greeting them with smiles, talking with them, offering expert advice and walking them to products rather than pointing.
Stauffers’ employees also make sure customers have everything they need to be successful with their purchases once they get home. “Before they get to the register, we check to see if they have the fertilizer or whatever their plant care needs are,” explains Mitch Rodkey, home accent/fresh flower buyer.
Stauffers underscores its commitment to customer service in several ways. When hiring, it looks for employees who are people oriented and fit the Stauffers culture. During the first interview, each potential new hire receives a copy of “The Stauffers Standard,” which “explains who we are and our expectations,” Ms. Drescher shares.
Once hired, new employees receive nine hours of customer service training. “We do a lot of work to establish and communicate the culture,” explains Mr. Stauffer, who also oversees the training program. The company also emphasizes service during company meetings, and secret shoppers help ensure standards are met.
In addition, the “Employee Promise,” which pledges to “greet with a smile, be positive, respect others, serve with integrity and think safety first,” is on the back of staff name tags and posted in back rooms. It’s also at store entrances to let customers know how they should expect to be treated. “It’s a constant reminder to our employees of the expectations for us as a company,” Ms. Drescher elaborates. (The Stauffers Standard and Employee Promise can be found on the company’s website, www.skh.com.)

full-service florals
The commitment to service includes floral design services in Stauffers’ three supermarkets, along with separate, nearby departments for custom permanent designs, home accents and gifts. Branded The Flower Shop, each floral department offers custom designs and gift baskets, plant upgrades, delivery, sympathy services, events, weddings and Teleflora flowers-by-wire service.          Stauffers handles mostly cash-and-carry weddings, providing bouquets, boutonnieres and corsages, but it also takes care of about 25 full-service weddings a year.
Stauffers attends two wedding shows each year to publicize its floral capabilities. In addition, the floral operation, bakery and catering have teamed up to offer their services. “We are becoming a full-service destination for wedding and funeral work,” Ms. Drescher expresses. “We can offer the entire process.”
Customers also can have designs made while they shop by one of the three to four designers that staff each Flower Shop. “We’re known for being able to accommodate,” Ms. Drescher says.
That’s especially true at prom and homecoming time, when procrastinating teens place last-minute orders, Mr. Rodkey shares. “We’ll stay the extra hours to complete the order,” he remarks.

customers’ top flowers
Most of the company’s cut flowers come from local wholesalers, with deliveries arriving at least once a week, and more often when fill-in orders are needed. The floral buying team attends trade shows to keep up on trends and new products, Mr. Stauffer shares. “We do quite a bit of travel to look for and select product,” he elaborates.
Stauffers guarantees its flowers will last up to seven days, or customers will receive their money back or replacement products. To ensure success, floral managers give customers care sheets and flower food with each purchase. “We try to give them as much direction as possible,” Mr. Rodkey explains.
Loose stems, kept in buckets in easy-to-access coolers, are customers’ favorites, Mr. Rodkey shares. “They pick them out, and we arrange them into nice-looking bouquets and wrap them up for them.” Best-sellers include carnations for $1.25 a stem, Alstroemerias for $1.99, roses at $2.99 and locally grown Hydrangeas for $2.99.
Arrangements, averaging $25 to $35, also sell well. Mr. Rodkey describes customers’ preferences in arrangements as “traditional,” but “we are getting into high-style and trendier designs as well.” The floral designers often create three to five cohesive looks in various price points so customers can find selections that fit their budgets.
The floral designers create the departments’ bouquets, with the exception of a $7.99 locally grown design that the departments carry in the summer. “We can sell 50 or 60 a week,” Mr. Rodkey says of the popular gardeny bouquets.
In-store-produced bouquets range from $7.99 to $19.99 every day, and up to $25 during holidays. The stores display them in floral coolers and also in key locations including bakery, pharmacy and at the registers to spur impulse sales.
“EarthScapes,” which feature foliage plants in clear glass vases filled with colored sand and gravel, are popular plants. Dish gardens, fairy gardens, terrariums and upgraded blooming plants also sell well in the floral departments.

garden favorites
The garden centers offer a huge array of products to satisfy the needs of area garden lovers. The company’s garden buyers attend trade shows; visit other retailers; and watch trends and colors to find the latest, most interesting products for customers, making sure that quality comes first, Ms. Drescher says. “Our customers like to see what’s new,” she elaborates, citing the black Petunias of a couple of years ago. “They were huge.”
Specialty annuals in 41⁄2-inch pots rank No. 1 in garden center sales, followed by annuals and/or vegetables in six-pack containers, flats of flowers and hanging baskets. Most of Stauffers’ plants come from local growers, Mr. Stauffer shares, often within 100 miles of the company.
The company also carries an extensive line of hard goods, including tools, watering accessories, soils, mulch, containers, pest control products, stone, statuary and fountains, bird-care items, and much more. Two locations also have patio shops. “Hard goods has been very strong for us,” Mr. Stauffer confirms.
And during Christmas, the garden centers turn into a winter wonderland of holiday delights. They’re filled with themed trees, decorated doors, hundreds of trim-a-tree items, wreaths and plants. The supermarkets also host large trim-a-tree areas although they aren’t as extensive as the garden centers.

services in the garden
The garden centers offer a full range of services, including delivery, landscape design and custom design. “We have experts in all locations and offer problem-solver help and assistance in the stores with folks on plants, lawns and landscaping,” Mr. Stauffer shares.
The company also offers resources on its website, www.skh.com, where gardeners can find a blog with helpful how-to advice, a “Gardening A-Z” directory with a wealth of information on topics from “African Violet” to “ZZ Plant” and links to how-to videos on YouTube. In addition, gardeners can pose questions through an “Ask the Garden Guy” feature.
Shoppers can have custom permanent silk designs, bows, wreaths and more made in the home accents section of the garden centers. The designers also create beautiful custom bows, which are especially popular at Christmas. “A lot of people aren’t doing that anymore,” Ms. Drescher expresses, and they appreciate the service at Stauffers.
Consumers also can buy custom planters or unique ready-made designs that Stauffers procures from a local grower. Mr. Stauffer says the convenient ready-made option is increasingly popular among busy consumers who want instant beauty for their homes.

reaping the rewards
Stauffers of Kissel Hill’s attention to customer service and high-quality products has paid off, with its flower and plant-related items, which include fresh and permanent flowers, home accents, Christmas trim-a-tree, gifts and seasonal home décor, contributing 12.44 percent to total company sales. “That is reflective of how strong our flower and plant business is,” Mr. Stauffer comments.
And with the company consistently appearing at the top of local publications’ “best of” lists, Stauffers appears to be living up to its motto that “We Delight Shoppers.”  sfr

  stauffers of kissel hill  
 

HEADQUARTERS Lititz, Pa.
LOCATIONS Three supermarket/garden centers and six stand-alone garden centers, all in central Pennsylvania
OWNERSHIP Stauffer family
established 1932
SALES $108 million in 2011
STORE SIZE Varies by location, ranges up to 75,000 square feet
AREA FOR FLORAL AND RELATED SERVICES Varies by location in each supermarket, up to 6,000 square feet
EMPLOYEES 1,100 companywide, includes 12 in fresh flowers (averages three to four per store), 60 in the greenhouses and 25 in home accents
FLORAL SERVICES Full-service floral departments in the three supermarkets, offering custom designs; delivery; sympathy, wedding and event services; and Teleflora flowers-by-wire service
GARDEN SERVICES Full lawn and garden services in all locations, including custom potting, landscape design consultation and delivery
BIGGEST HOLIDAY FOR FRESH FLOWERS Valentine’s Day
FLORAL AND RELATED CONTRIBUTION TO STORE SALES
12.44 percent; includes fresh and permanent flowers, plants, home accents, Christmas trim-a-tree, gifts and seasonal home décor; doesn’t include lawn care, tools, trees and shrubs, mulches and soils
GARDEN CENTER CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER Jere Stauffer
HOME ACCENT/FRESH FLOWER BUYER Mitch Rodkey
WEBSITE www.skh.com

 
 

keys to success

 
 

CUSTOMER SERVICE Stauffers of Kissel Hill makes service a key company value, emphasizing it in hiring, training, meetings and more.
PRODUCTS In both floral and garden, buyers attend trade shows and stay in tune with trends to bring customers the latest and most innovative products.
GETTING THE WORD OUT Customers learn about the company through newspaper advertising, its website, Facebook, Pinterest, YouTube and blogs. The floral department attends wedding shows to help spread the word about its services.

 

recognition for stauffers of kissel hill
• Voted tops in the supermarket, garden center and outdoor furniture categories by readers of Lancaster Newspapers, Inc. in September 2012
• Voted No. 1 in supermarket and garden center by readers of Lancaster County Magazine in November 2012
• Received Harrisburg Magazine’s “Simply the Best” award for garden centers in August 2012
• Received York Newspapers’ “Readers Choice” award for “Favorite Garden Center” in April 2012
• Listed No. 12 in “top 100 garden center” rankings by both Nursery Retailer and Garden Center magazines
• Named No. 22 of the top 100 private companies in Central Pennsylvania by the Central Penn Business Journal in September 2012


 

 

Reach Editor in Chief Cynthia L. McGowan at cmcgowan@superfloralretailing.com or (800) 355-8086.

 



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WildFlower Media Inc.