This just in from The Los Angeles Times: “Harry & David Holdings, the famed fruit and treats retailer that has been filling mail orders since the 1930s, said it would emerge from bankruptcy protection in mid-September. Harry & David filed for bankruptcy protection in March, blaming competition from Internet retailers and warehouse-style stores and the recession.”
I’m glad they’re back, if only because I’m a sentimental sort. From the day they ran their first aw-shucks ad (headline: “Imagine Harry and me — advertising in Fortune!”), Harry & David has been a direct response marketing icon.
As for “blaming competition from Internet retailers and warehouse-style stores and the recession,” well, every company can blame troubles on external factors. At least sometimes, that blame is no more than a sly way of avoiding saying, “We failed to foresee and respond to change.” All direct response marketers faced the same challenges Harry and David did, but not all ended up in bankruptcy. Some of them read the writing on the wall, endured the pain of adapting, and emerged with a promising albeit revised future.
I don’t deny that big hits can come from left field and take even the most astute unawares. But very often, external factors are internal ones in disguise. Somewhere in all of that, I suspect that both the successful and the not-so-successful can find grounds for humility.