Where Green Comes to Roost
Through strong marketing and a loyal customer base, Green Nest is carving out a niche in Culpeper, Virginia. What’s more, there are green marketing lessons in here for you.
Take one look at their logo and it becomes immediately apparent that the folks at Green Nest, a green gift shop in Culpeper VA, have really done their marketing homework. The compelling image shows a nest gently cradling Mother Earth.
The store’s assistant manager, Courtney Simpson, says the team gave it a lot of thought. “We wanted to represent the earth since it is our ultimate goal to lessen our impact on the environment. And so it just made sense that the Earth would rest in our nest,” she says adding that a local graphic designer ran with the idea and created what has turned out to be a strong part of Green Nest’s overall marketing strategy.
Green Nest, which opened for business almost a year ago last February, has an older sibling: Pepperberries, a gift and fashion destination that has been in business for six years and has a strong and loyal customer base.
It was a little more than a year ago when Pepperberries’ owner, Sharon Clark, began to realize that the store had too much storage and office space that was being wasted. The idea of turning the space into a revenue-generating proposition was exciting. Store management also noticed the lack of an earth-friendly gift store downtown and decided the time was right for Green Nest.
Merchandise mix is important in any gift store but even more so when a store is green—after all, the customers are buying into the green idea when they visit your store and want to be sure the products they purchase meet the store’s green mission.
Simpson says that when Green Nest started out they had a long list of extremely strict guidelines for product sourcing: products had to be packaged in recycled/recyclable containers, bath products had to be organic (preferably USDA-certified); all paper products had to be made of recycled components, labeling had to be printed on recycled paper with non-toxic inks, the company needed to abide by Fair Trade guidelines, use minimal packaging and have very little shipping waste.
The store does still follow all these benchmarks but has come to a more realistic realization that not every company can meet every mark on every product, Simpson says. “We look at the company and the green initiatives it takes, packaging, shipping and of course what the product represents,” she says. “Now, it’s important that the products we carry are as earth-friendly as possible, from production to the final product.”
Products Green Nest stocks include EnV bags, bath and body products from Inara, candles from Paddywax’s “Eco” collection and Small Plum kids’ clothing.
The store has been especially successful with their green marketing initiatives. Green Nest has been involved in Culpeper’s community garden and donated crops to local food banks. Last spring, they partnered with a local school to sponsor a planting project and gave the students ideas for crafts made out of recycled materials. “We have also participated in local baby fairs, consignment sales and other events to bring awareness,” Simpson says, “we are trying to become a resource for our community and its citizens who want to live a greener lifestyle.”
The store has a Facebook page and joined community groups like the community garden, the local La Leche League (the league supports breast-feeding mothers).
Green Nest employs one full-time manager, one part-time assistant manager and a sales associate. Having Pepperberries as a sister store has helped with a steady customer base and attendant traffic. Simpson says the store has also had a lot of success in “working with wonderful vendors. We have found so many great product lines from companies that truly care about what they are doing and the products they are putting out on the market,” she says.
The successes have come with challenges too. Simpson says it has occasionally been difficult to get past the common misconception that green living and gifts are either “boring or more expensive.”
For fellow green retailers, Simpson has this piece of advice: Research, research, research! “You have to make sure that the products you are carrying are truly earth-friendly. Get to know your vendors and product lines inside and out so that you can share that knowledge with customers,” she says.
Education is especially important for green retailers so customers can understand the important of buying green products. “Having a green store has also given us the opportunity to get involved in our community and educate not only ourselves, but others,” Simpson says.
By all accounts Green Nest is well on its way to success. Even though the store opened when the recession was just kicking in, Simpson has been gratified by how far Green Nest has come since its inception. “When we began the process, it was a life-changing experience. We began learning things we didn’t even realize about products and packaging and living ‘green’ in general,” Simpson says. “It changed the way we operate the business and aspects of our personal lives.”
Courtney suggests hosting a recycling event in your town or even planning a tree-planting ceremony at the local schools as part of potential Earth Day marketing strategies.
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