Family-owned and operated Karns Quality Foods has been serving central Pennsylvania for more than 60 years. David Karns opened the first Karns Foods store in 1959, “welcoming customers as individuals with individual needs,” said Scott Karns, president and CEO of the company.
The retailer continues to provide fresh, affordable, local and quality items in 10 locations across Cumberland, Perry, Dauphin and York counties.
The company, with its 1,200 employees, welcomes more than 100,000 shoppers each week.
Karns is a second-generation family member, joining his father, David, in the family grocery business in 1977 after graduating from Messiah College with a bachelor’s degree in business administration. He learned all facets of the business before succeeding his father as CEO in 1989.
Karns enjoys being an independent grocer, with the “ability to be nimble, flexible and quick in decisions when necessary, plus working with local brands and organizations is wonderful. I know being a local business means making a local difference.”
Growth during adversity
Karns Foods was able to grow in both store locations and square footage over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While we were fortunate to assist many new shoppers during that time period as a company, the effort put forward during that time was like nothing we had ever encountered,” Karns said. “The goal throughout was to keep shoppers and team members safe, confident in our ability to supply essential goods and satisfied that we were doing our very best.”
One of the biggest lessons learned was that Karns Foods shoppers did not need as many product options as the company had been offering.
“This is carrying over to our current and future operations in looking at SKU rationalization,” he said, noting they are focusing on the “must carry” sizes and varieties.
Labor, supply chain and inflation continue to present challenges for the retailer.
“These three obstacles are weighing heavily on our operations every day,” Karns said. “Additionally, margin compression due to inflation is an increasing concern – after all, we can only raise prices so high without isolating shoppers.”
Making most of technology
Karns Foods always is looking for ways to attract customers, which are an essential part of the business, Karns said. It is using various advertising and marketing initiatives to reach them, and recently introduced geofencing as a way to connect with targeted potential shoppers.
Karns Foods offers online shopping through Instacart and Shipt and is continuing to explore additional efforts to expand this option, he said. The company also uses Facebook and Instagram to connect.
“Primarily, this is utilized to share recipes, new products or events taking place,” Karns said.
Trying to find ways to use technology to cut costs and be more efficient is key.
“Most recently we invested in the installation of cashless self-checkouts. Additionally, the company is exploring automatic ordering for the future,” Karns said.
Ensuring stores are up to date also is important for the company’s success.
“Keeping a fresh, clean appearance is a must,” he said, adding that store remodeling and renovations are continuously taking place.
Karns Foods supports the communities where its stores are located, partnering with hundreds of organizations throughout its service areas. Product donations, gift cards and monetary gifts are made to school groups, youth organizations, food banks, pet rescues, churches and other organizations.
“We recognize that supporting the local community is essential to our continued success in the local community,” Karns said.
For more information, visit karnsfoods.com.