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Royer’s at 85: Finding our niche

Kenneth Royer, then-president of Royer’s Flowers, was the subject of a 1991 “Masters of Business” feature in the Lancaster New Era newspaper.

This is part of a series of occasional blog posts about important events in Royer’s history as the company marks its 85th anniversary in 2022.

Ken Royer, the son of Royer’s Flowers founders Hannah and Lester Royer, wrote the book on running a successful flower shop, both in a figurative sense and quite literally.

His decades of experience at the helm of Royer’s Flowers, during which it became one of the largest florists in the United States, certainly qualified him as an authority in his field.

And he put his insights into words, which he published in book form under the title, “Retailing Flowers Profitably.”

QUALITY CONTROL

If you wanted a distillation of Ken’s 500-page manuscript and flower-selling philosophy, you could do worse than a 1991 “Masters of Business” feature in the Lancaster New Era newspaper.

In a question-and-answer format with a reporter, Ken described how Royer’s carved a niche for itself that allowed the company to grow from one store with $170,000 in annual revenues when he took over from his parents in the mid-1950s to 18 locations and more than $12 million in annual revenues at the time of the interview.

“Most people in this business are crafts oriented,” Ken said, “they’re most comfortable with the design aspects and working with the flowers. That makes it hard to be able to grow beyond a store or two.”

Ken, who earned a degree in floriculture from Michigan State University, said he was more drawn to the business side.

“I saw a big opportunity to bring sophisticated business procedures and marketing techniques to the industry, which traditionally was very segmented and never really had a national chain like most other industries.”

Creativity being a subjective thing, Ken explained, made it difficult to institutionalize across multiple locations.

“But that’s essentially what you have to do,” he said. “The key is developing a system where there are controls over the stores that give you consistency and quality control.”

Royer’s was dubbed the “McDonald’s of the flower business,” Ken said, for offering 25 basic arrangements available at each of its stores. Royer’s talented designers could customize anything, but the company’s aim was to offer “easy-to-buy flowers for personal enjoyment or routine social expressions.

“The average guy can come in here and not feel intimated or embarrassed. You don’t have to know a thing about flowers or how much they cost to come in here and get something nice.”

MAKING MAGIC

To control the quality of products and services offered, Royer’s introduced:

  • An in-house design training program
  • A central design division in Lebanon
  • A 24-month management training program

The depth of the effort betrayed the limit of the fast-food comparison.

“It all comes down to knowledge,” Ken said. “You can’t just hire anybody to stand behind the counter; they must understand the business. It’s not like fast food – you can teach somebody everything they need to know about burgers in five minutes.”

Floral design was more complicated than flipping burgers, but Royer’s wanted the process to be fast-food simple from the customer’s perspective.

Royer’s focus early on was to make flower buying easier and more convenient.

“I guess you could say that we want to take the mystery out of flower buying,” he said, “but not the magic.”

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