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Top 100 2012: Food fuels retailers to earn spots on list

By , - Last modified: August 10, 2012 at 11:46 AM
Produce clerk Jim Buchanan, center, restocks a locally grown corn display at the Rohrerstown location of Stauffer's of Kissel Hill as customers select and shuck their corn. Photo/Amy Spangler
Produce clerk Jim Buchanan, center, restocks a locally grown corn display at the Rohrerstown location of Stauffer's of Kissel Hill as customers select and shuck their corn. Photo/Amy Spangler

In midstate retail, as in life, it all comes down to food among the top privately held companies.

Everyone needs it, but there are myriad choices for where people can put down money for this life necessity.

The strategies of some of the top players in the category are best summarized as selling what people want and doing it in a way that makes them happy. Competition from other businesses demands focus on what works to keep customers coming back.

Communication within the organization is a big part of the equation, as is organized training for employees at multiple levels of companies.

From there, Lancaster County-based SKH Management Co. and Cumberland County-based Karns Prime & Fancy Food Ltd. chart their own courses to their finish lines.

SKH Management Co., trading as Stauffers of Kissel Hill
Donovan Oberholtzer, chief financial officer
Warwick Township, Lancaster County

How do you prepare to face the competition?

I think part of that is to know yourself, or know what our strengths are, and to capitalize on them. And then also to know who your competitors are and to make it easy for our customers to want to choose to shop with us.

There are certainly a lot of choices in Lancaster County, so our desire is to try to make it easy for our customers to choose us by providing excellent service and an enjoyable shopping experience. And it is a marathon. It's not a sprint.

We're a locally owned company in the third generation, so our desire is to be consistent in the fundamentals that allowed us to get to today and be willing to be meet the new needs of our customers. If you don't like change, you're going to like irrelevancy less. That's pretty good advice to be aware of. We all know things will change.

What's your training strategy/approach?

I think part of that is to be prepared and to expect the unexpected. It kind of goes along with the first question. We delight shoppers. That's the motto for Stauffers of Kissel Hill. And to have our customers or anybody be delighted, it means that your expectations must be met and hopefully exceeded. So that is one thing we try for, excellent customer service, which is one way of delighting customers.

Each one of our employees receives nine hours of training (when they first start) ... Every employee, regardless of position, goes through that customer service training.

We put a lot of time and energy into defining what customer service looks like for our organization. What ties into that, our promise as employees states that we will greet with a smile, that we'll be positive, that we respect others, that we serve with integrity and think safety first.

So it's based around building relationships and providing a comfortable environment for our shoppers. And then also having product training, so we have knowledgeable associates. And we know we are doing the right thing when we get comments from our customers that they do notice the friendliness of our associates.

What does success look like for your team?

We need teamwork to be successful, and that does start at the top of our organization. We have a slightly different structure — I'll call it a horizontal management structure instead of hierarchical, in that we do not have a president at the head of the company making all of the decisions but have a management team. Throughout our organization, we also have an executive operations team, made up of 13 members, representing all operational areas of our business, charged with making operational decisions.

Whenever we have a new manager who is starting, our training department facilitates a training exercise for the new manager so they can get to know the expectations of the team and for the team members to get to know the expectations of their new manager.

One of the measurements that we have, or one other indicator we should say, is that we have something called caught-in-the-act cards, or CITA. They are given a "CITAtion," and it's a recognition for an associate caught in the act of committing an exceptional act of customer service. It can be filled out by anyone on the management team or a customer, and they can put the associate's name down, and it goes into a box and they are entered into a drawing each month. And if they are drawn, they receive a monetary reward for that act.

And certainly in a retail environment, whether you have satisfied customers is how you would measure success. If you have your customer coming back week in and week out, that's the measure of success — by having delighted customers.

Karns Prime & Fancy Food Ltd.
Scott Karns, president, CEO and owner
Silver Spring Township, Cumberland County

How do you prepare to face the competition?

You hate to say it, but you have the team meeting. We all hate meetings, but they are a necessary evil. And we do executive, supervisors and what we call the next level, where the sales are made. They can be stockroom, on the floor and pretty much every place the sale is made. So we have three levels.

Certainly technology has made a big difference. You have the typical Internet, but you have the intranet, where you can send out information to your managers and share information so easily now (compared with) what you could five or 10 years ago. It makes things so much easier and quicker. The same papers I am looking at, somebody else can be looking at at the same time. That communication level has greatly improved our operation.

What's your training strategy/approach?

We've been pretty fortunate in the management level. My turnover is just minimal, and I'm lucky that I have very well-trained and knowledgeable people. …

We have a huge amount of turnover and training in the supermarket level with clerks and whatnot. A lot of your staff are part-time, and a lot of them are first-time job positions. You have a lot of high school kids and college kids who come into the workforce.

It's a check-off list of must-dos that the store managers must do with those store employees. Each job has its own. So if you're a cashier, it goes through money handling, proper scanning, regulation training … how to handle food stamps. There is a big increase in usage in the past three years.

We do job sheets, so we try to keep the training guidelines to one sheet. It's easier for the person doing the training and the person receiving the training. So it's one sheet on food stamps, one sheet for tobacco products. The things you have to know.

What does success look like for your team?

Event-driven promotions are what work for us.

So every manager knows when the holidays are and are prepared for them. As they say in the food industry, you can't sell out of an empty cart. So for

July Fourth, you're selling hot dogs, you're selling ketchup, you're selling mustard, and you have to be prepared for that. For our industry, there are a lot of events to plan for throughout the year.

Obviously, the bottom line is always important. Big numbers for us are customer count, sales per customer and dollar sales … We feel that if we are growing our customer count, then we are doing well. If we are having a 79-cent-a-pound chicken leg sale, then you won't see the same dollar amount as a shrimp sale. And the one thing we know as a supermarket, nobody walks into a supermarket looking. Every customer comes in buying – it's just how many items are they buying?

We want sales per customer to be growing, because that means our merchandising plan is working. The customer count, that means our marketing plan is working. They are seeing it, they are hearing it and they are reacting to it.

Top retail companies

Rutter's Holdings Inc.: $640 million

Karns Prime & Fancy Food Ltd.: $106.4 million

SKH Management Co.: $105.37 million

Phillips Office Products Inc.: $51.99 million

Caneel Inc.: $12 million

Colony Products Inc.: $12 million

Car Wash Systems Inc.: $10.73 million

PC Parts Inc.: $10.41 million

Hair Direct Inc.: $10 million

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