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The Cheesecake Factory picks Harry & David as exclusive online supplier

While others were debating Thanksgiving Day retail hours and Black Friday sales versus cyber shopping, Harry & David sweetened its offerings and its bottom line Tuesday.

The Medford gourmet food and gift giant said it has struck a deal with Calabasas Hills, Calif.-based Cheesecake Factory Bakery to be its exclusive online supplier.

In other words, you want the über mass-market cheesecake delivered straight to your door, there's one place to order it — Harry & David.

"They wanted a partner with the right level of quality reflecting their brand," said Jackie Ardrey, senior vice president for merchandising and supply management. "Harry & David was just a natural. We spent quite a bit of time making sure we had everything right for the deal to be successful both for our consumers and their consumers as well."

Early this year, Ardrey discovered Cheesecake Factory Bakery was looking for someone else to take over its website operations. Spying an opportunity, the moment Cheesecake Factory folks cracked the door she walked in.

"It's definitely an interest of mine to bring new ideas, fun and fashion into our assortment," Ardrey said. "A partnership with the right companies is a good way to do that. We ended up talking for several months before coming to an agreement for us to be the exclusive online provider for their cheesecakes."

Ardrey wasn't sure how common it is for a publicly traded firm to turn over its online sales to a third party. Nonetheless, she said, "they definitely had us in mind when they started thinking about doing this."

The deal, wrapped up in October, increases sales options without adding logistical stress, she said. Harry & David has freezer capacity at its two primary facilities here and in Ohio.

"We thought using those two places was the most profitable way to go," Ardrey said. "There aren't really additional costs incurred as a result of the partnership."

Max Byfuglin, Cheesecake Factory Bakery president, said in a statement the partnership will "help gift-givers think outside the standard bakery box this holiday season."

Harry & David has long sold its cheesecake products — typically smaller and less elaborate than Cheesecake Factory selections — and will continue to sell some of them. During in-house meetings, the question quickly popped up.

"Why are we selling their cheesecakes?" Ardrey said. "It's about acquiring new customers and Cheesecake Factory has a huge base of customers that is very attractive to us. Whenever we can use our marketing to help build our customer base, that's a win for us. We are still selling our best-selling cheesecakes."

Customers can view and order Cheesecake Factory Bakery's offerings from Harry & David's website. The cheesecake is packed in dry ice and scheduled for two-day shipping.

Most of the cheesecakes are priced at $44.95.

"It's a tier above what we sell, but there is still a market for what we sell," Ardrey said. "It's about expanding the market for cheesecake and expanding our customer base, not about replacing our cheesecakes. We're always interested in opportunities that are right for Harry & David."

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter @GregMTBusiness, and read his blog at www.mailtribune.com/Economic Edge.

The Cheesecake Factory picks Harry & David as exclusive online supplier