Traditional local stores might feel threatened by cheap, online competitors but a Matakana homeware store owner thinks nothing beats a physical presence.
Green with Envy owner Nicole Ward’s views might seem odd given that she started her own business online.
But after finding that just about every nook and cranny in her home was becoming filled with Green with
Envy stock, it made sense to open a shop.
“The only reason I got into bricks and mortar was to have the capacity for storing goods,” she says.
So Nicole took over an old fruit and veg shop and that pragmatic decision turned out to be a huge boon for her business.
Now, Green with Envy does only 20 per cent of its trade online, with the balance coming from the store.
Nicole says the secret is that bricks and mortar stores give customers a sensory experience that online stores cannot match.
“Everything is so fast-paced and there is so much stress out there. People long to have a place where they can just come and take time out; have a coffee, catch up with the locals, and have a little shop,” she says.
“They smell the candles, try on the clothes, and they flick through the books.”
She says customers go away fulfilled in a way they cannot do online. But to make it work, owners must do all they can to keep their stores interesting to keep customers coming back.
“You have to keep the experience alive. You have to keep it evolving and growing.”
In Green with Envy’s case that has meant installing a coffee shop in a converted potting shed, and the store will soon feature a new room to showcase Green with Envy’s new line of locally-made clothes.
Also advantageous is having an outgoing store owner on site to engage with customers, many of whom Nicole now regards as friends.
Nicole says as she chats with customers she inevitably learns about what kinds of things they are looking for.
Each time she visits a trade show she has a massive list of the kinds of things that will appeal to her customers – intelligence that would be hard to glean online.
She says having stock closely aligned to customers wants is a win-win for everyone.