Nature Discoveries has opened four outlets since starting in September 1996 and is doing a steady business in tapes, magazines and books on creation, along with a large range of natural objects and the tools to observe them.
This bold mix of the Bible, nature and science pulls 10,000 shoppers a week into the chain’s second shop, in a Christchurch mall, where display areas are full of beautiful fossils, shells, mounted butterflies, microscopes, telescopes, camping items, wall-sized posters, rock specimens—even meteors. Prominent on one wall are videos and books explaining that God created the splendours of the world we live in.
This new approach is already winning commercial recognition: in October this year the new Dunedin shop was nominated for the city’s Top Shop Award, just six weeks after it had opened.
Director Doug Pflaum and his team opened the fourth store, in a Wellington mall, in October 1997. Doug hopes to take the chain to New Zealand’s largest city, Auckland, in 1998. Eventually he wants 15 outlets throughout the country, a strong internet presence, and a national mail-order operation.
There are around 500 secular shops in Western countries selling ‘nature and science’, Doug points out.
Indeed, there are three in Auckland, the city in which he grew up. But Nature Discoveries promotes creation along with the marvels of nature, and so stands apart.
Creation magazines were the catalyst for this amazing venture. ‘I thought they were great,’ Doug recalls. ‘They filled in a lot of gaps for me.’
Then in 1995, while holidaying in Hawaii, Doug and his wife, Vikki, walked into a secular nature and science shop. ‘It was so interesting. It was great!’ Doug remembers. ‘But it was a pity that all these fantastic things of God’s creation had no link to let people know God had created them all.’
Back in New Zealand, Doug and Vikki asked themselves, ‘Why can’t we tie these two things together?’ and Nature Discoveries was born.
Doug’s background in sales and marketing includes both the secular arena, and Christian broadcasting, where he also dealt with public relations and graphic art. Nevertheless, the challenges of setting up this business were daunting.
Not least were frustrating problems of supply. He had to deal with over 200 suppliers for his 4000 product items, and many of them responded excruciatingly slowly to a tiny customer in distant New Zealand who didn’t even have a shop open.
But a year later the first two shops were launched and customers were being drawn to the amazing collection of natural items on display. The outlets all have glow-in-the-dark caves where teenagers and children can step aside and see ‘stars’ and, in the most recent two shops, realistic stalactites. Doug’s shops also have such things as personal locator (GPS) devices, camping gadgets, telescopes and so on.
The chain’s logo is a cheeky kea bird, the brightly coloured New Zealand native mountain parrot to suggest fun, along with a compass to symbolize discovery.
Behind the dazzling product range, though, is a vision. Doug Pflaum and his staff want people to respond to God when they find themselves awed by nature. The company’s mission document states: ‘If people realize the design requirements for the natural world to function, the beautiful works of art all around us, the amazingly complex and intricate make-up of all aspects of life and environment, the awesome size of it all, the amazing number of variations that have been created and the incredible inter-relationships that exist, then they may accept that there must be a God and that through it all the veil may be removed from their eyes and they get a glimpse of our mighty Creator and His plan for their lives.’
Quality creationist books and videos from the Answers in Genesis range are deliberately highlighted in one area of each shop, and ‘quite a bit’ is being sold, says Doug, who does not stock any material supporting the theory of evolution. ‘A lot of people come in here with strong blinkers on,’ Doug points out. He wants to run a commercially successful business, but primarily Nature Discoveries is in the marketplace to let people know God created this awesome universe, and ourselves, just as the Bible states.