2006 retail florist of the year

Through three generations, Kremp Florist, the 2006 Retail Florist of the Year, continues to grow, develop and improve.

On the golf course, competition is fierce among the members of the Kremp family. And although the competitive spirit doesn’t always stay on the greens, it is never allowed to handicap the family business, Kremp Florist in Willow Grove, Pa. Owner Charles Kremp 3rd says that mutual respect for one another, fostered by his wife, Gina, has enabled the 50-year-old flower shop, now managed by a third generation of Kremps—sons Scott, Chad, Drew and Steve and daughter-in-law Leslie—to remain atop the leader-board despite the normal challenges of working closely with competitive family members.

Recently, in its first entry in our annual “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, sponsored jointly with the Wholesale Florist & Florist Supplier Association (WF&FSA), this impressive business stroked an ace of its own, winning the 2006 award. Nominated by Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist in Sewell, N.J., Kremp Florist took honors with judges for its incomparably enticing retail flower shop and greenhouse, unparalleled commitment to customer service and satisfaction, exceedingly well-planned and well-executed advertising and marketing program, and so much more.

On the course, golfers may “lay up,” or hit shorter than they’re able, to play safely and avoid hazards. But starting in 2000, when the Kremp family began planning a major renovation, they held nothing back, investing $1.5 million to invigorate their main facility with new features, display areas and other enticements. The results have proven to be an astounding success, the primary benefit of which is to attract more in-store customers and to create unique and satisfying shopping experiences for the Philadelphia suburb’s 3 million residents. “Our philosophy,” says Charles, “is that our store has to be a good marketing tool for our business. Seeing it and experiencing it has much more impact than a few direct-mail pieces.”

Among the most impacting of the store’s newest features is the two-level floral cooler, which includes a 231-square-foot mezzanine—the shop’s display cooler—equipped with automatic sliding doors for easy access. The mezzanine, or balcony, overlooks the flower storage area, so customers are able to see the wealth of materials on hand, including impressive floral works in progress, such as those for weddings.

While the attractive array in the storage area inspires awe, customers also are enthralled by the display area of the cooler. At all times, the mezzanine is brimming with the shop’s cash-and-carry arrangements as well as stems and bunches, priced from $5 to $250. “We want to be able to take care of all customers who come in,” reports Scott, who serves as company president.

The strategy seems to be working. Charles estimates that about 90 percent of the shop’s sales are gift purchases, and the majority of those are fresh flowers. While he is reluctant to share average sales figures, Charles notes that Kremp Florist’s average ticket price is probably similar to those of other large-scale florists around the country.

The renovation, which expanded the shop to 40,000 square feet, also afforded another structural change that helps the business function as a marketing tool. “We now have at least a dozen themed displays at all times. They’re like window displays that face inside,” describes Chad, vice president of sales.

Of course, the additional space has allowed Kremp Florist to expand its lines of giftware and accessories, which include fabric flowers and permanent arrangements, vases priced from $3 to $300, five lines of candles, spa and bath products, garden accents, statuary, metal sculptures and so much more. “In giftware, we try to have something for everyone,” notes Chad.

Nevertheless, Charles says that buying in the various categories is controlled. “We don’t buy deeply in anything—maybe $300, $500 or $1,000 worth,” he elaborates.

The buying strategy, Chad explains, is part of the company’s merchandising philosophy. “We want our showrooms to be impacting and different from other stores, but we don’t need dozens of items in every line to be effective,” he notes.

Instead, impact is achieved with the mix of unexpected merchandise, some of which is oversized, such as a 6-foot-tall plush bear that sold for $500, or very high-end items. For example, Kremp Florist sells table and wall fountains that retail for as much as $1,200. “Often,” cites Charles, “these impressive items are the first to sell.”

But sales aren’t the primary goal. “These items make the store unique and give customers enjoyable shopping experiences. Selling them is icing on the cake,” shares Chad.

He also mentions that, to differentiate the showrooms, displays are changed regularly. “We do major changes seasonally and for holidays, but even from day to day, things are changing. We don’t want today’s customers to come in next month and see the same products in the same spot,” Chad explains.

Another element that contributes to the shop’s unique character is a luscious selection of sweet treats, displayed enticingly in a glass case near the elegant copper-clad check-out counter. The tasty confections, along with locally bottled wines and wine-related merchandise, partner wonderfully with fresh flowers and giftware.

“The sweets are great impulse buys,” assures Scott, who says that customers are often seen browsing the store and munching on the chocolate-covered pretzels, truffles and other items.

Of course, the candies, like the wines, are favorites in gift baskets, but for some customers, baskets are not required. “One evening recently, I noticed a man selecting a bottle of wine and a single rose,” recalls Charles. “Wine and flowers are a timeless combination.”

No liquor license is necessary for Kremp Florist to offer wines. Instead, as Scott explains, Pennsylvania law allows local vintners to sell wines in retail outlets, so, as part of its last renovation, Kremp Florist created an inviting space for a local vineyard’s fermented fare. In exchange, the shop receives a percentage of each sale.

At the opposite end of the 40,000-square-foot facility, customers also are enticed by Kremp Florist’s three-level greenhouse, filled with an impressive assortment of blooming and foliage plants in a range of sizes as well as hanging baskets, dish gardens, ceramics and more.

The fabulous, sunlit structure, part of a renovation from years prior, is home to a pair of parrots and is complete with a grand flowing waterfall and a sparkling pond. There reside a turtle and a small school of “friendly” fish, as Charles describes them, who gather at the surface and do their part to entertain shoppers and keep them coming back.

While the in-store ambience undoubtedly contributes to strong greenhouse sales, the Kremps admit that competing with mass marketers for plant sales is a challenge. However, Kremp Florist has an advantage over other retailers, with high-quality selections grown at the company’s small range of greenhouses in Churchville, Pa., managed by Steve. “The quality of our products is high,” Scott reports, “so they command a higher price, and we offer them in fancier containers and trim them with moss and other accents to make them special.”

Despite the obvious appeal of an amazing retail location, Charles says the key to Kremp Florist’s success goes way beyond the brick-and-mortar structure. “Our business is not the physical facility,” he explains. “It’s the people and our philosophy of service that makes us what we are.”

Indeed, everything about the business is structured to meet customers’ needs, starting with store hours. The shop is open 365 days a year with full delivery service, from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday.

“We have to be here when customers want to buy,” says Scott. “At holidays, we don’t even set specific closing times. If we’re here working,” he explains, “the doors are open.”

But this work ethic isn’t shared by all florists. “Other florists sometimes refer customers to us because they know we’re open,” adds Charles. “I’ve never figured out why businesses set limits and turn customers away.”

In fact, it seems that limits are the antithesis of the Kremp family philosophy. “We would never say we couldn’t or wouldn’t do something. It’s totally against what we do,” Scott emphasizes.

That philosophy is noteworthy during busy holidays and the wedding season and is especially so when the two coincide, such as on Mother’s Day weekend, a time when the men recall creating florals for as many as 20 weddings plus fulfilling Mother’s Day orders.

And since Kremp Florist weddings have been priced as high as $20,000, the nuptials alone are no small challenge. “Whatever the budget,” shares Scott, “we listen to what customers want, and we make it happen.”

In addition to weddings, the listening process extends to sales throughout the shop, and it sometimes involves suggestions as well, Vice President Drew points out. “During the training process, we emphasize upselling,” he reports. “We never want to go into a call thinking that something is expensive because budgets vary based on occasions, and we don’t know who’s on the other end, what the occasion is and what the needs are.”

So to ensure that customers’ objectives are met, salespeople ask questions and make recommendations. According to Drew, $50 sales often become $100 sales when the choices are offered. “It’s a service to customers to suggest several options and then let them decide,” he explains.

Clearly, the best way to serve customers is to give them what they want. Another way is to prove that they’re valued and appreciated. “There’s no better way to gain customers than to have them experience our products, so we take every opportunity to get our products out to potential patrons,” says Charles. “For example, during the holidays, we send our own greenhouse-grown poinsettias to neighboring businesses and even local politicians.”

In fact, free gifts are integral elements in the Kremp Florist marketing plan, but, says Leslie, director of marketing, “They’re much more impacting during nonholiday times, when they’re not expected.” As a result, the company’s advertising often includes offers for free bouquets and plants throughout the year, with only a visit to the store required.

“The ‘free’ coupons, when no purchase is required, are redeemed at a rate of about 250 per month,” shares Leslie. But, when the offer is “buy one, get one free,” she says the redemption rate drops dramatically.

“Our goal, especially since the renovation, is to get more people to walk in the front door because we know that once customers are here, they’ll see that it’s a shop like no other,” she explains. And the clear benefit is that rarely do shoppers leave with just the free items for which they came.

Free flower arranging workshops also attract throngs of potential customers into the store. Participants bring their own vases, and Kremp Florist provides the flowers and foliages at no charge. “At first,” recalls Leslie, “the classes were in-house promotions, but now we allow nonprofit organizations to schedule them, so they collect donations from their members to participate.”

Those in attendance, many of whom say they’ve never visited the store before, browse around before classes begin, so, according to Leslie, Kremp Florist is still meeting its objective to get customers in. Therefore, she says, “It’s a ‘win-win’ situation for everyone.” And when organizations ask for donations, Leslie recommends the workshops as fund-raising sources. She says the shop usually hosts three or four each year, some with as many as 50 participants.

E-mail reminders are another form of advertising that works well for Kremp Florist. At least twice per month, and more at specific holidays, the shop sends promotional e-mails to customers who’ve provided their e-mail addresses. Scott notes that orders spike after each mailing. “The e-mails push our Web site, and we notice tremendous increases in visits and orders, but, often, orders are for items not featured in the reminder,” he shares.

While electronic mailing is a relatively inexpensive way to reach customers, the annual costs of print advertising, promotional brochures and mailers, and all the freebies really add up. “We watch our expenses closely and try to keep them as low as possible while spending as much as possible on marketing,” shares Charles. As a result, he speculates that Kremp Florist’s advertising budget is significantly higher than the average spent by florists nationwide.

Obviously, the Kremp family commitment to the business and its customers has kept Kremp Florist strong and growing. “We’re fortunate that we all share the same goals,” says Scott. “And if there are problems or issues,” adds Charles, “we address them right away. We don’t wait for annual reviews.”

Understandably, Charles may be a bit biased, but he’s confident in the company’s management team, which includes more than just Kremp family members. Some of these staffers—the controller, wedding designer and accounts-receivable manager—have been with Kremp Florist for more than 20 years. “We have wonderful people in management,” Charles says, “and we all want our shop to be great and to be there for our customers and staff.”

True commitment to employees is rare in the retail sector and can be especially difficult in floral, where margins are usually tight. Nevertheless, Kremp Florist offers competitive wages and up to three weeks of paid vacation, based on tenure. Health and dental coverage for employees and their families is also part of the package, with a portion of the premium paid by the shop. And because of Kremp Florist’s extended hours, the shop is able to offer flexible scheduling, even for full-time staff.

According to Scott, employees appreciate the benefits of working in a supportive and visually enjoyable environment. “It varies by department, but, generally, turnover is relatively low,” he says.

Developing a reliable staff of knowledgeable people who are able to provide quality products and caring service for customers is valuable to the shop’s ongoing success. In addition, Charles says the shop’s success depends on its suppliers as well. “We have the ability to buy direct, but we rely on our local wholesalers for most of our products because of the service and convenience they provide as well as the long-standing relationships we have. They provide good value for us,” he reports.

Likewise, says Scott, the family members also depend on one another. “We have control over our own departments, but we discuss everything and work together as a group.”

Although they say their roles have always evolved, the changes may be more dramatic as the business transitions fully to the next generation. But change has never been daunting for the Kremps.

Over the last 50 years, they’ve embraced many changes. Most likely a few mulligans—known away from the golf course as “do-overs”—have been required from time to time, but they’ve stayed out of the bunkers and never lost their focus, which is to meet customers’ needs at all times with the best products possible. And as long as the Kremp family remains in the floral business, that is not likely to change.

Contact contributing editor Shelley Urban at surban@floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

Could you be the 2007 “Retail Florist of the Year”? For information about entering the next contest, contact your favorite WF&FSA-member wholesaler, visit WF&FSA’s Web site at www.wffsa.org or call (888) 289-3372. You can also contact Florists’ Review at www.floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

  WF&FSA member Delaware Valley Wholesale florist nominates a winner.

In his 23 years at Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, account manager Frank Soucek says he’s never met a sharper bunch of folks than those at Kremp Florist. “Scott is the consummate professional. His business knowledge is superior, and he is ‘on the ball,’ ensuring that the shop is always prepared for anything,” says Mr. Soucek, who, for the past seven years, has managed the Kremp Florist account from Delaware Valley’s headquarters in Sewell, N.J., where the shop’s deliveries originate each day.

In fact, it was the professionalism of the Kremp Florist team, which has had a relationship with Delaware Valley for more than three decades, that led John Richards, director of retail sales, to nominate this savvy retailer for the 2006 “Retail Florist of the Year” award. “They’re professionals in everything they do,” Mr. Richards agrees, “especially in care and handling, marketing and merchandising. They’re absolutely top-notch.”

And when it comes to professionalism in the floral industry, these wholesalers recognize it when they see it, having served retailers since 1959, when the company was founded by Robert S. Wilkins and his wife, Doris. Today, Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist is part of Delaware Valley Floral Group, which encompasses wholesale outlets in Edison, N.J., and Baltimore, Md.; a logistics facility in Miami, Fla.; and a refrigerated trucking company, Flower Transfer, Inc., that operates between Sewell, N.J., and Miami, Fla. For more information about Delaware Valley Floral Group and Delaware Valley Wholesale Florist, call (800) 676-1212 or go to www.dvwf.com.

To learn more about the “Retail Florist of the Year” competition, visit WF&FSA’s Web site at www.wffsa.org  or call (888) 289-3372. You can also contact Florists’ Review at www.floristsreview.com or (800) 367-4708.

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