Case Study: Tender Heart Treasures
To come up with such a volume and assortment of new product ideas, product development is an ongoing activity at Tender Heart Treasures. “We usually are working about 18 months out,” says Watanabe-Gerdes. “Right now, we’re designing for the spring of 2004.”
The product development process begins with the design and buying teams working together to determine where the line will develop for the upcoming year. “Our design team works closely with our merchandising team to determine themes/product lines for each season as well as for each section of our catalog,” Olsen explains. Looking at sales results from prior seasons and current seasons helps to determine what to drop or what to expand.
In addition, the team closely monitors market trends when developing new products, lines or classifications, keeping hot colors and mediums in mind.
Home and design trade shows provide sources of inspiration as to the colors and textures for the coming season. Ideas also are generated by reading home decor magazines, attending gift market and trend seminars, and watching the competition.
“We have to stay in line with the decorating trends, because that affects the type of home accessories that consumers will want,” Watanabe-Gerdes notes. And, you can bet that a year or so later those trends will appear in home decorating, not only impacting Tender Heart Treasures’ lines, but those of catalogers such as Pottery Barn and Crate & Barrel. “You’ll even see similarities in apparel trends,” she says.
All of that trend information comes together back in Omaha where the products are planned, designed and specified for manufacturing. First, product concepts are presented to the design and buying teams, usually in the form of sketches. Once a concept is approved, says Olsen, “Prototypes are built, when applicable, and then sent to the manufacturers for production.”