Michelle Hespe speaks to Nicole Ward, Founder and Owner of the New Zealand gia Global Honoree award winning retailer, Green with Envy.
When people visit New Zealand, or meet New Zealanders, many comment that the country and the people are so warm and welcoming. That the place and its people are down-to-earth. There’s a true sense of caring and connectedness in this small country with a population of only 4.6 million that always punches far above its weight in so many fields. Whether its sport, music, art, politics — you name it — there’s a famous Kiwi (aka New Zealander) out there singing its country’s praises while excelling at what they do. In retail, it’s no different, and Green with Envy, from the beautiful New Zealand coastal region of Matakana, beautifully captures that caring feeling.
Founder and Owner of Green with Envy, Nicole Ward, says the mission of her business (which started out as an online store before having a brick-and-mortar presence) is ‘To make every customer feel special.’ Nicole and her small, passionate team continually strive to exceed customer expectations with a unique shopping experience that truly inspires customers.
This inspiring experience starts from the moment a customer approaches Green with Envy, as it’s housed in a lovely former fruit and vegetable barn that could be the front of someone’s delightful country cottage. Outdoor festoon lights hang along the veranda, which is used to display plants and an outdoor hanging chair, all of which give it a welcoming appeal. And then, from the moment people step into the store, the atmosphere encourages them to take a deep breath and simply enjoy where they are. Soothing music, ambient lighting and beautiful smells from lit scented candles add to the warm welcome. The store is airy and light, and there are two sets of French doors opening on to a pretty jasmine-scented courtyard, where a café resides in a former potting shed. This special place to sit and enjoy a cup of coffee and a treat gives visitors a sense of belonging to a community.
The gia judges and jury were quick to pick this up, commenting that Green with Envy was not only well-loved brand, but also a friendly community of like-minded people. “It is a store with a lot of character, and a store that you truly want to visit, as it gives you a sense of discovery as soon as you arrive,” they said. “There is a lot of excitement around the innovative events and activities as well, and stocking local ranges of artisan products add to that community feel.”
The store’s layout adds another layer to this community feel, as the spaces are subtly divided into rooms you would find in a home. This allows people to form a connection to the products they see and touch, because they are inspired to think of the products in their own home already. They can also take products home to try them out before buying.
Green with Envy proves that a business doesn’t have to be a mega store recognized across the globe to become a gia winner, because it’s the special boutique nature of this business that makes it stand out from competitors.
“We were so delighted to become a gia Global Honoree,” says Nicole. “I didn’t think for a minute that we would be a contender, especially considering giants such as Amazon USA were nominees. It was a David and Goliath moment for us. And something we learned from the gia judges was that in today’s hectic world, physical retail stores are even more important than ever. A physical shopping experience can make people feel fulfilled and connected, and give them refuge from their busy lives. To quote Anne Kong, one of the four gia expert jurors: ‘It’s about creating a sense of place, areas that invite the consumer to sit down, stay longer and engage with products. Shoppers appreciate a resting place to pause, to relax, to absorb, and take in the shopping experience.’”
Nicole also adds that participating in gia gave her team a chance to reflect on their journey, and to analyze their business strategy. “It was interesting for us to see how much we have evolved since we started our business,” she says. “We are very aware that successful retail is about strong relationships, with our customers, suppliers, and our staff, and we continue to build upon that.”
Although Green with Envy is quaint in appearance and old-fashioned in many of its values, that doesn’t mean the team isn’t tech-savvy. “Today shoppers can buy anything and everything at a click of a key,” says Nicole. “So we keep up with the times by embracing change, and staying abreast of new technologies that can enhance our shoppers experience. We understand the importance of connecting with our customers, not only in the physical store, but also via the Internet. Social media is embraced at Green with Envy, and we offer information on in-store activities and promotions that customers then share with their friends and family online, via Facebook and Instagram. Viral looping is a great way of spreading awareness of our brand.”
The judges loved the store’s annual ‘Photos with Santa’ for instance, where they set up an in-store Santa grotto to give children the opportunity to have a photo taken with him. A gold coin is donated, all proceeds going to the local schools, and people share their photos online to further promote the popular attraction.
“Our community means a lot to us, and we enjoy supporting local fundraising initiatives, with product giveaways and monetary contributions”, adds Nicole. “For instance, Green With Envy recently worked with a local youth offender intervention organization to design and create wooden products now sold in-store.”
Asked what advice she would give to anyone starting out as a retailer — online or with a physical store — Nicole says that first and foremost, you need to find a point of difference. “Be innovative in providing a product or service that is new and unique — you need to give shoppers a reason to want to visit your store,” she says. “And remember, don’t try to be everything to everyone. It’s best to keep your range tight and selective, especially when starting out. Have a clear idea about who should, could or would buy from you, and how you are going to engage with them to get them to come to you.”
One thing is for sure. The passion that Nicole and her team have for the business has an endless stream of customers coming to them. And she is certainly one of those Kiwis travelling around the world showing others how it’s done with style.
“I love my job,” says Nicole. “I love working on improving our customers’ in-store experience, and as our physical store represents everything about our brand, we can express how our brand looks, sounds, smells, feels and even tastes. You can smell candles, hear music, flick through a book, try on clothes, and feel textures. Customers can also taste the delicious food from our café, while sitting and absorbing the atmosphere, and interacting with others in our community.”
To learn more about Green with Envy, visit www.greenwithenvy.co.nz.
For more information about the gia (IHA Global Innovation Awards) program, the co-sponsors, or participating in 2017-2018, contact Piritta Törrö at firstname.lastname@example.org. Additional information on the gia program is also available online at www.housewares.org/show/gia-retail.
For more information about the International Home + Housewares Show and to pre-register for the 2018 Show, taking place in Chicago on March 10-13, 2018, please visit www.housewares.org.