Selection is a key advantage at Stauffers of Kissel Hill. What began as a roadside fruit stand in 1932 has expanded into eight home and garden stores — three of which share a site (and in some cases, a building) with a supermarket.
“Traffic is the primary advantage. We can bring flowering plants into an environment that has 20-some thousand transactions every week of the year,” says COO Jere Stauffer. “That is a particular advantage in winter, when a garden center, on inclement days, might not see anybody other than the person who plowed the parking lot.”
It’s not without challenges, though. Finding high-traffic commercial property for a supermarket that’s affordable enough to support a garden center requires tremendous investment. So Stauffers expands its product mix in other ways.
It started three years ago with a “tagline shift” to reposition the garden centers as “home and garden stores,” allowing more product categories with fewer seasonal restrictions.
Two years ago, the home side of the business expanded with “boutique” fashion, jewelry and spa products.
“There’s no way, five years ago, that I would have said we’d sell this kind of product,” Stauffer says. “The other day, a customer bought an outfit and said, ‘I never thought I’d be buying clothes in a garden center.’ We’re adjusting to changes in the shopper base.”
Last year, one of Stauffers’ stores started selling fresh produce from local farms.
“It brought traffic into our home and garden stores that don’t traditionally get much traffic during summer,” says Debi Drescher, director of marketing and branding. “We increased customer count and sales at that location as a result of the fresh produce.”
This year, another location will add farm-fresh produce.
Stauffers is getting back into landscaping services, too. The company ran a robust landscape design build division in the ’80s, which closed when the commercial market dried up in the early ’90s. Noticing a recent demand for small jobs that don’t require large landscaping crews, the company added Garden Coach consulting and landscape design last year, followed by installation services this year.
“It’s inconvenient for customers to buy a tree from us, then schedule with a landscaper, and pay different people,” Stauffer says. “We made it simple.”
Stauffers’ ecommerce site is another example of convenience and constant innovation. Initially, it only listed products that could be purchased online and shipped anywhere. But after seeing local customers “pre-shop” online before making in-store purchases, Stauffers listed the entire inventory — even items that can only be purchased in a store.