Case Study: Tender Heart Treasures
In a comfortable corner of Omaha, NE, designers, woodworkers and seamstresses create more than 600 new home decor and giftware products each year.
Founded by Pamela Watanabe-Gerdes in 1987, Tender Heart Treasures considers its in-house design staff one of the company’s strongest competitive advantages and a major reason for its success.
Today, the company produces two catalogs: Tender Heart Treasures, which offers country-style giftware and home accents, and A Special Place, which features more romantic, European-inspired gifts and home decor items. In addition to its catalogs, the company markets its products to wholesale customers through trade shows and two showrooms.
Started with just 13 employees, Tender Heart Treasures has grown into a $60 million company with about 400 employees. A significant portion of the annual revenues come from the catalogs, says Watanabe-Gerdes. Though she declined to say how much of the company’s business is catalog, she did note the catalogs continue to experience significant growth.
Watanabe-Gerdes attributes much of the success of her business to developing its own unique, affordable giftware and home decor products. “We work hard to determine what the customer wants, then bring it to them at the best price for the greatest value.”
From Concept to Completion
Of the 600 new products Tender Heart Treasures introduces each year, more than 90 percent are created in-house. The company’s product design staff consists of buyers, designers, artists, woodworkers, seamstresses and a staff of assistants. The team, along with Mary DeGraeve, director of merchandising and product development, produces three product lines a year—spring, summer and fall/holiday—for each of the company’s two catalog titles.
More than 30 percent of each season’s product assortment consists of new items. “The focus of each book changes seasonally as we introduce new product lines that reflect the given season,” says Pat Olsen, product design manager.