Touchstone Gets a New Lease on Life

Gifts and Home Decor Cataloger TouchStone has a New Lease on Life: It was acquired in early June by Gardens Alive!

TouchStone founder March Sarah Luce announced four months ago that she was shuttering the 20-year-old business due to rising costs, namely catalog postage. Atlanta-based TouchStone sells furnishings, tableware, lighting and decor items.

How did the deal come about? Luce worked with acquisitions specialist Fred Anderson of Anderson Direct, who introduced her to about eight companies. “We used the time during the purchase to analyze our brand distinctives,” she says.

“We had to understand why we were unique within the industry, since so many of our competitors had gone out of business. We focused on our strengths and learned how to position ourselves as a desirable acquisition.”

For its part, Gardens Alive! — a Lawrenceburg, IN-based horticultural mailer — acquired TouchStone to “add a more upscale brand to our gift businesses,” says Gardens Alive! founder/president/CEO Niles Kinerk. It also evidently wanted the talent, as it immediately hired back the core TouchStone employees.

This is unique, Luce says, in that most acquisitions take only the merchandising manager and all other internal functions cease. “In our case, Gardens Alive! will take advantage of our merchandising, purchasing and Web expertise and our knowledge of our customer.”

Luce and her team are working a holiday 2009 TouchStone catalog. Particularly given the economic turndown, she notes, “this really is a story with a happy ending.”