Home' Australian Giftguide : Apr Jun 2013 Contents australian giftguide
Shady Fig is Nowra's
enchanted forest within a
store. Opened by former
Sydney florist Michelle Collison
a little over five years ago the
shop sells flowers alongside gifts
After moving to the south
coast of New South Wales with
her family for a sea change,
Collison discovered a gap in the
local retailing scene. She found
a premise near a popular café in
town and has been winning over
locals with her beautiful blooms
"I think it has grown through...
a lot of word of mouth because it
was a new concept to Nowra," she
says. "Nowra has definitely got a
lot more stores now compared to
when I opened... being a country
town they all like to come in,
check out the new shop that has
opened so I think [I've proved]
myself to people.
"I really pride myself in top
quality flowers and in the products
I source I really try to have a great
point of interest for people, so I
think that has really helped build
the business and [my] reputation."
Collison decided to combine
gifts and homewares with flowers
because of her passion for all
things home related. Her products
are just as popular with customers
as her flowers but she finds the
latter is what draws them in.
"They always comment on the
scent of the store--they migrate to
the flowers but comment on the
other elements we've got in here."
To get Shady Fig's unique
selection of flowers Collison
travels to the Sydney Flower
Markets from Nowra twice a
week. While she can get flowers
delivered and admits it's a long
haul she says by going up herself
she can find more interesting
pieces, such as succulents and
pods, for her customers.
"I've got Osage oranges at the
moment... even if people come
in and don't buy anything it's
always a great talking point.
They'll pick up something and
they'll say 'what's this? we
haven't seen it before', so at
least if they haven't bought
anything they come away with
a great memory of the store,"
Shady Fig's floral artistry is also
popular for weddings. Collison
finds when she's not busy serving
customers in the store she's
busy putting together amazing
displays and bouquets for brides.
Her Facebook page gallery
is filled with examples of her
beautiful work for weddings.
The store stocks Telegram
Paper Goods, Palm Beach candles,
Poppies for Grace, Elk accessories
and Est products. Brands are
found through the gift fairs, pop
up stores and markets.
To fit in with the store, products
will generally have something
natural or organic looking about
them such as a floral or leaf
element. Collison tries to look for
suppliers who are less mainstream
as another way of setting her store
apart from others.
"I have to really love the
product to have it in store. I have
to embrace it and be a believer
in it because if I don't it's really
hard to sell that particular line,"
Just as the products have to
have a natural look, the store
does too. It has ivory walls and a
big chunky recycled wood bench
in the centre. Most of the interior
was built by Collison's husband.
Tree stumps are used as props.
"At the moment we're looking
very organic," she says.
The store's customer service
philosophy is about nurturing
customers. Collison tries to please
most people who come into her
store. She's happy to have a chat
and understands customers like
to see the owner in the shopfront,
which is why she works six days
While Shady Fig has an online
store the focus is very much on
the bricks and mortar operation.
Collison says its "slow and
steady" and things in store such
as wedding flowers often take
priority over updating the site.
However, she does have a big
focus on Facebook, regularly
adding photos from in store. Much
of the web work is done by one of
her two staff members.
Even though online shopping is
becoming more and more
of a threat to traditional retail,
Shady Fig still attracts a strong
following because of its flowers.
The power of their fragrance,
the attraction of their beauty
and the consumer's need to grab
a bouquet on the run means
the bricks and mortar operation
can survive the internet
"That will still bring people in
store because they need to come
in, they need to pick up a bunch
of flowers. Even though you can
to an extent order flowers online,
I think people love to come in
and look, see, feel, touch and
check flowers in person. I think
that's a great element about the
flowers, they bring people in, the
Along with flowers, nothing
attracts a customer more than
a stunning window display.
Collison chose her premise partly
based on its "amazing windows"
so she could "open with a bang".
Shady Fig is now well known for
its incredible displays.
The store windows look even
better at night. Lights made from
branches adorn the windows
creating the appearance of
a magical, whimsical forest.
There's no doubt how attractive
the windows are after the sun
goes down as the evidence is
there for all to see in the morning.
"We get a lot of marks from
where people have pressed their
noses or hands up to the window
[at night] which is always a
SAY IT WITH FLOWERS
Combining fresh flowers with gifts and homewares has proved to be a
winning formula for Nowra store Shady Fig. RACHAEL GAVIN reports.
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