retail florist of the year - runner-up

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Top-quality customer service, an artistic focus and aggressive marketing create a successful strategy for the first runner-up of our “Retail Florist of the Year” competition.


by Morgan Chilson


The floral business has changed significantly since Nanz & Kraft Florists, Inc. was founded in 1850 in Louisville, Ky. But there is one common thread that has run through all 155 years this family-owned company has competed in the floral industry: top-quality customer service. This is just one reason why the business, which is owned by Ramsey Kraft and his three sons, Eddie, Michael and David, receives accolades as a runner-up in the “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, sponsored by Florists’ Review and the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA).
“It is all customer-service driven,” explains Kathleen Beckman, controller for the company. “That goes from the very beginning to the very end. It is incorporated into the whole process that we want 100-percent satisfaction.”
With four locations (the main one is a superstore with 20,000 square feet), Nanz & Kraft is one of Louisville’s top florists. In fact, the business has been voted “Best Florist of Louisville” 15 times by readers’ polls from Louisville Eccentric Observer (LEO) magazine.

keeping employees happy
Staying on top in Louisville means maintaining 15 delivery vehicles, having more than 100 full-time and part-time employees and constantly seeking new avenues to market their products, Ms. Beckman relates.
“We are artists in taking the order, we’re artists in making the order and we’re artists in delivering the order,” she says.
Achieving top-quality “art” is not a process lacking growing pains, Ms. Beckman admits. To offer the best in service, Nanz & Kraft has created an employee training program that would be the envy of much larger organizations.
“By sticking with the goal of focusing on customers’ satisfaction, we have developed a phenomenal training program to make sure that every individual in the organization is aware of how every little part plays a very important role in the final product,” she explains.
Maintaining that kind of program can be expensive and time consuming, but for Nanz & Kraft, it’s one of the elements that make them stand apart from many florists. Included with the in-depth training is an employee benefit program that helps with retention. Along with the basic health benefits, Nanz & Kraft has a retirement plan that is based on the company’s profits. Annual bonuses based on profitability along with that retirement plan can raise employee salaries as much as $1 an hour, Ms. Beckman says.

consumer connection
The philosophy of taking care of employees then spills over into the company’s basic premise of giving top-notch customer service. That, of course, is composed of many elements.
Product line, for instance, is one of those elements. Ms. Beckman notes that Nanz & Kraft is well known for carrying a large selection of fresh flowers. Most of the company’s business is by telephone or Internet, with only about 8 percent of customers coming through the door.
“Once people have been here and they know what we can do, they know they can call and ask for what they want,” she explains.
Although fresh flowers account for about 85 percent of the company’s sales, the 20,000-square-foot main building does not go to waste. Giftware, permanent botanicals and a greenhouse on the second floor pull customers in to browse. About one-tenth of the showroom space is given over to giftware, Ms. Beckman says, which tends to move a little slowly, except at Christmas.
“Our building is very customer friendly; it is all open,” she says. “If our customers want to walk over and watch a designer design, they can do that.”
The greenhouse, located on the second floor, is a unique draw for many customers. Nanz & Kraft does not grow its own flowers, but it creates designs with plants. Instead of putting foil and a bow on a plant, Ms. Beckman explains, they purchase plants separately and create unique arrangements, such as “Eurogardens” and violet baskets.
Nanz & Kraft made a whopping 90,000 plus deliveries last year with its 15 vans, which are eye-catchingly decorated with huge bright flowers. The shop boasts the lowest delivery fee in Louisville, at $3 per delivery, within the zip code where the main store is located, on orders more than $20. The average delivery fee is $4, and $6 is the maximum. The average sale is about $45, Ms. Beckman says.

corporate satisfaction
Meeting that kind of delivery schedule as well as handling an average of five to 10 weddings each weekend during wedding season and many corporate accounts means working efficiently and quickly. Corporate accounts have been a growing area for the company, particularly over the holidays.
“We do a lot of Christmas decorating,” Ms. Beckman explains. “It’s labor intensive, but we do a lot with corporate and VIPs. That is a significant amount of our Christmas business.”
Their work includes setting up Christmas trees and decorating offices and homes, and it can be quite stressful on the work force, she adds. They’ve also recently expanded into larger group functions, which again, can be hard on the work force.
“You’ve got to make the decision: Are you going to do it or are you not going to do it? You can’t do it halfway,” she says. In order to ensure that the right employees are in place during those seasonal upswings in business, Nanz & Kraft has added a very telling question to its interviews: “Can you stand on your feet for 12 hours a day for six days a week?”

total exposure
To maintain the 50-percent sales growth that has occurred during the 12 years that Ms. Beckman has been with the multimillion-dollar company, Nanz & Kraft is dedicated to unique marketing efforts. Employees freely hand out business cards topped with the phrase “Present this card for a FREE rose!” and recent promotions have offered many “buy one, get two roses free” deals, Ms. Beckman says.
“That is becoming pretty popular,” she relates. “We’re getting every employee involved. If you go to the dentist, give one to your dentist!”
All ads are pursued on three fronts—print, direct mail and Web site. In addition to paid advertising, Nanz & Kraft personnel understand the value of community service both as a marketing tool and as a duty to give back to the city where they live and conduct business.
Of course, with a 150-plus-year history in the community, it is natural that the Kraft family is dedicated to Louisville. That type of dedication to employees, customers and the community is the key to making sure Nanz & Kraft is around in another 150 years!
 

Morgan Chilson, formerly a business reporter and editor in the newspaper industry, is now a freelance writer living in Topeka, Kan.


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