Blooming transactions

Mergers and acquisitions were blooming in the month of May, especially for gardening products and flower catalogs. And it seems that Ruth Owades’s green thumb was at the root of it all.

On May 17, Owades sold Calyx & Corolla, a catalog of fresh flowers she founded in 1989, to Gerald Stevens, a flower and floral gifts retailer. And on May 18, Williams-Sonoma agreed to sell its gardening items catalog, Gardeners Eden-which it bought from Owades in the late ’80s-to cataloger/retailer Brookstone. The financial terms of both deals were not disclosed.

The San Francisco-based Calyx, which mails nearly 15 million catalogs annually, has an established brand name and partnerships with 20 growers worldwide. Gerald Stevens, which has more than 125 stores nationwide, was formed in January 1998 and has acquired 94 stores in 13 markets since October. Earlier this year, the company bought Internet-based floral marketers Flowerlink and National Flora. And in May, Stevens merged with Florafax wire service, a floral order generator and third-party credit card processor, in a deal valued at $350 million. The company also operates several Internet floral businesses.

Calyx & Corolla, which includes a Website that’s reportedly grown more than 500% over the past year, will help Stevens create a national sales and marketing division that includes catalogs, direct mail, and Websites. Calyx will become a wholly owned subsidiary of Gerald Stevens, and Owades will serve on its board of directors.

Gardeners Eden Under the terms of the Williams-Sonoma deal, $272 million home and garden products marketer Brookstone obtains the rights to the Gardeners Eden name and intellectual property, the 2.6 million-name house file, inventory relating to the current catalog, and prepaid catalog expenses. Nashua, NH-based Brookstone, whose Brookstone and Hard-To-Find Tools catalogs represent 11% of total sales, also gets access to Williams-Sonoma’s entire customer base for three years for prospecting purposes. Gardeners Eden will be fully integrated into Brookstone’s existing catalog operations by August, according to a company release.

Williams-Sonoma has no plans to divest its namesake catalog, Pottery Barn, Pottery Barn Kids, Hold Everything, and Chambers. Catalogs represent nearly 40% of the firm’s $1 billion in total sales. In fiscal 1998, the $22 million Gardeners Eden mailed 10 million catalogs.

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