Fruit for Thought with Harry & David

(Chief Marketer) Before we even spoke with Cathy Fultineer, executive vice president, sales and marketing for Harry & David, we knew the answer to our first question. She had to reschedule the interview twice, because the holidays are definitely the busiest time of year for the Medford, OR-based food and gift marketer.

“November and December combined are over 65% of our business,” she says. “It’s very exciting. We are all not sleeping well but having a good time of it.”

The next biggest holiday is Mother’s Day, she says, noting that Easter, Father’s Day, and Halloween are also prime times. And September is big, because there are a lot of birthdays in that month.

The company circulates more than 1 million catalogs annually and is in the mail to its best customers every three weeks. It also has stores around the country.

In recent years, Fultineer notes, the gift-food business has gotten more competitive. “You’ll look in the gift catalogs and see a lot of food sections. There are new people out there, and we keep our eyes on them.”

One way Harry & David is working to keep ahead of the competition iswith product development. “We’re a vertically integrated company, so we have our own product development kitchens,” Fultineer says. “That’s an advantage on our side. The other thing is that we’re experts on getting perishable products delivered in perfect condition. We even use refrigerated trucks and all that stuff. You can never rest on your laurels. Our job is to do what we do best and do it better than anyone else.”

The company’s two most popular products are its signature pears (Fultineer says this year’s crop is especially sweet) and the Tower of Treats. Moose Munch popcorn and the Fruit-of-the-Month club are also big sellers.

As for food trends, Harry & David is capitalizing on the healthy-eating wave by introducing organic pears this year. Dark chocolate is also another hot item.

“What we find is our customer is generally looking for a gift that has pretty broad appeal. You don’t have to worry if it fits or if it’s the right color,” notes Fultineer, whose personal favorite fruits are pears and cherries. “We’re looking for viable trends with broad appeal.”

As for the gifts she’d like this holiday season? On a personal level, she says the best thing is being healthy and being with her family. And on the business side, “I’m hoping to come in on plan or beat it.”

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