Harry & David unveils a brand new look that coincides with the company’s 80th anniversary.
Interview By Katie Lee
As Harry & David celebrates its 80th year in business, you might think this mainstay of American gift giving would be content with its status as a traditional classic, as an icon of retail. Its sister brand, Wolferman’s, is over 100 years old — so why change? Because Harry & David promises to deliver expertly crafted delight in all they do — from handpicked fresh fruit to hand packed gift baskets and towers — and the retail experience is no different. With a reinvigorated brand and sophisticated new store design, Harry & David delivers on this promise. A newly designed signature store in Loveland, Colorado, opened in September and is expected to provide the blueprint for future stores. Retail Facility Business recently spoke with John Bancroft, the company’s senior vice president of marketing, about the recent changes and what lies in store for Harry & David.
RFB: How many stores does Harry & David operate today? Tell us about the new flagship store that opened in September  in Loveland, Colorado.
John Bancroft: “We operate 49 permanent stores today and 35 seasonal stores in the upcoming holiday season, consisting of about 20 pop-ups and 15 kiosks. These seasonal stores are popping up literally as we speak; we continue to open these venues daily, preparing for a great holiday this year. In total, we are excited to be able operate 84 stores for this year. Our traditional flagship store, located in Medford, Oregon, is near our headquarters. This store is reflective of our proud heritage and celebrates our 80 years of expertise. We also have the new store concept that just opened up in September in Loveland, Colorado. This store continues to amplify our proud heritage and adds a modern sensibility that is more reflective of our customer’s current expectations.
“The new concept store in Loveland is located at the Promenade Shops at Centerra, which is a beautiful outdoor shopping center standing in stark contrast to the indoor malls or some of the other store venues. This is a new experiential concept for Harry & David and we’re testing it out as a potential retail experience for the future. The initial customer reaction has been very favorable; also, the Harry & David staff love it. We’re hopeful that it will perform well and, if so, we would consider rolling out this concept to additional stores.
“Additionally, our traditional flagship store here in Medford has been around for a long time. We plan to use our insights from the Loveland concept and remodel this location in the coming year.”
RFB: Are you based in Medford, Oregon?
Bancroft: “Yes, and the company was started in Medford. We are a vertically integrated company so we make, bake and grow most of everything we sell. We literally grow the pears, the citrus, and assemble everything here in the U.S. So it’s very much an American brand and an all-American tradition. I think that’s a unique standout from a value proposition versus a lot of businesses that are out there today.”
RFB: Describe some of the specific architectural design elements and materials that make this flagship store unique.
Bancroft: “The Loveland store itself is really a completely new design for Harry & David Retail. The interior is reflective of our history but also is much more modern — it’s a mix of modern and ‘found.’ There was a focus on quality lighting, and the ‘found’ part of it is there’s a lot of authenticity and found objects that go into the design of the shop. The pear boxes we use in harvest — the wood, for example, from those boxes adorns the walls as décor. There are a lot of found objects from our business that are true and authentic and are actually used in the business that help decorate the store. There’s a real sense of ‘orchard to table’ or ‘farm to table,’ if you will. That comes out loud and clear when you walk in. The heritage is definitely there, and the story is further amplified by our use of digital media throughout the store, both in the windows and mid-point through the store as you’re walking through the store. Ultimately it is the experiential nature of the store design that is truly unique. We have created content that will inform the customer of the quality ingredients in our expertly crafted products that is displayed on monitors throughout the store. We created this store to express a comfortable and relaxed atmosphere that is dedicated to offering lifestyle solutions such as entertaining ideas and gourmet recipes. Near the back of the store is where customers can taste samples, gather at our table and enjoy a delicious coffee and engage with our associates. This experiential dynamic is what we hope to transition into our existing stores in the near future.”
RFB: Is there a larger food element in this model?
Bancroft: “We have an amazing assortment, and we are expanding to have a stronger presence in gourmet. There is also a push toward shared consumption and self-consumption products. Gifting is still at our core, but there’s definitely a lot more self-consumption that you see there. To that point, we have designed what I like to call ‘rest stops’ throughout the store which are strategically placed displays including refrigerators and unique fixtures that offer a variety of product and lifestyle offerings in a way that encourages further exploration of all the store has to offer.”
RFB: How has the new layout helped the staff operationally on a daily basis?
Bancroft: “First of all, we think our store teams are much happier because they’re seeing more customers come in the door. From an operational standpoint, the back office is organized in a more efficient manner. Previously, it was more difficult to handle product in the back. Now we have different configurations of furniture that help associates much more swiftly and efficiently manage the product flow from the back out onto the floor. The technology also modernizes the experience and enables the associates to tell a better story. An individual associate doesn’t have that much time with any single customer within the store and can’t promote every item. The complementary multimedia that’s in the shop really helps communicate the proud heritage, high quality and iconic brand for which we are known and helps everyone find the perfect item for their needs.”
RFB: Was the new design planned to coincide with the brand’s 80th anniversary?
Bancroft: “The timing is actually completely coincidental. It’s nice that it’s in time for the 80th but we if were 6 months earlier, we would have launched it 6 months ago. It was just pure coincidental timing.”
RFB: How does a retailer who’s been around so long stay fresh?
Bancroft: “That’s a great question. It’s something we work hard on. We’ve been around for 80 years, and longevity doesn’t mean you have to get stale. Focusing on our expertise, in the orchards, the candy kitchens and in the manner in which we expertly craft every gift, has allowed us to remain relevant. Continuing to innovate with new product categories, new gift designs and new retail experiences has allowed us to stay fresh.
“We’ve also undergone a complete refresh of our brand this year. With a reinvigorated brand promise (‘We deliver expertly crafted delight’), an updated logo reflecting our 80-year heritage and new designs for our catalogue, website, emails and packaging, we are telling a more authentic story and creating a more modern experience for our customer without losing the heritage that has brought us success in the past.”
“Harry & David was recently acquired by 1-800-FLOWERS.COM and by combining our expertise, [the acquisition] positions us to become a year-round authority for gifting and entertaining. I was fortunate enough to be part of this acquisition process. The deal combines the world’s leading floral gifting brand and its existing family of gourmet gift brands with the iconic Harry & David brand to create a multi-occasion, omni-channel gift retailer with more than $1 billion in annual sales. The 1-800 organization was actually interested in our brand for about 12 years. When looking at the data about our brands and customers and their brands and customers, I see why the partnership makes sense. The combined entity creates a leading year-round destination for all customers’ celebratory and gifting occasions.”
RFB: Are your stores primarily mall-based? Lifestyle centers? Any freestanding locations? Please describe your typical prototype, including average square footage.
Bancroft: “Square footage wise, it’s about 2,514 square feet, so it’s about the same size as most of our other stores just designed in depth opposed to width and with a different experience as you walk through. We like that size a lot. It’s in an outdoor mall, we share a wall, we’re in close proximity to others, it’s not quite standalone. It’s definitely not your C-mall footprint.”
“Typically we’re mall based. Most of those 49 stores are in outlet malls.”
RFB: Do you anticipate looking more in lifestyle centers in the future?
Bancroft: “We feel lifestyle centers are a better complement to our brand. Many of our seasonal stores are strategically opened in lifestyle type centers. We’re trying to position ourselves right where our customers need us and expect us most.”
RFB: What are your biggest operational and/or maintenance related challenges?
Bancroft: “Operationally our biggest challenge is successfully staffing our seasonal locations. Unemployment is going down across America, and it’s acutely low in several markets. There is a challenge to get as much seasonal staff as we need to handle our peak. We are currently driving several new initiatives including job fairs and targeted marketing campaigns that support our recruiting teams. Additionally, we find that inconsistent technology across the various venues can be a challenge for our IT group. Ensuring real time data transfer and the trafficking of information is a critical requirement in ensuring we set our retail teams up for success.”
RFB: How do you handle a typical maintenance call?
Bancroft: “All stores’ maintenance requests are called or emailed in to our corporate office. Some of the issues we may get are: broken sink, toilet, freezer, cooler, A/C, heater, pest issue, ballasts out, etc.
“Our corporate office will email them a request for service and an estimate. The vendor will then send a local tech out to do an inspection. The vendor will either call or email our corporate office for approval to move forward with the fix.”
“If the job is minor, and the estimate is below a certain agreed upon amount, we do not require approval and they can move forward with the fix in a timely manner.”
RFB: How do you handle an emergency call?
Bancroft: “Our corporate office, as well as maintenance vendors, are on call 24/7 so we can react and make decisions quickly. In an emergency, our vendors will work on the weekend; otherwise they’ll take care of it on the following Monday.”
RFB: Do you rely primarily on national vendors? Or a mixture of national and regional/local service providers?
Bancroft: “We use national companies for both our regular and HVAC maintenance.”
RFB: What do you enjoy most about your job on a daily basis?
Bancroft: “What I enjoy most about it is we are the stewards of a classic, iconic American brand. It’s an amazing responsibility and it keeps me up at night — we are the caretakers of a promise that has existed for over 80 years regarding our high quality fruit and expertly crafted products. I enjoy that very much.”
“I also enjoy that every single order is for an important event in someone’s life. It’s a celebration, it’s sympathy, it’s an anniversary; it’s in many cases a tradition for families who have trusted us for 10, even 20 years, so I enjoy that part of the job the most. We deliver expertly crafted delight. We play an important role in people’s lives, to the point that in many cases, it is tradition. I love that part of the job, and I think the team does too. That’s what keeps us motivated to deliver on our promise every day.”
RFB: What are some of your future goals you’ve set for your team or your stores?
Bancroft: “While it’s hard to predict the future in 5 years, I’m focused on delivering a great holiday. We’re confident about our holiday plans and are optimistic the customer will respond to all of our hard work. As for the future, to maintain our reputation of high quality, hand crafted gifts, we’ve got to focus on quality products and an excellent customer experience. Without a doubt, I see that as our primary focus into the future.”
— Email the editor at [email protected]. This article originally appeared on the cover of the October/November 2014 issue of Retail Facility Business magazine.