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Late Easter tags 1-800-Flowers.com

It was one of those 'tweener quarters for 1-800-Flowers.com, Harry & David's parent company.

Just as Harry & David rolls in most of its revenue during the Christmas holidays, 1-800-Flowers.com hits it big on Valentine's and Mother's days. When Easter fell into the fourth fiscal quarter this year, that meant a lot of revenue remained on the table for another day.

The Carle Place, N.Y.-based gourmet food and floral company reported a net fiscal third quarter loss of $11.1 million, or 17 cents per share, on Tuesday, compared with a net loss of $9.1 million, or 14 cents per share, a year ago.

The company's Gourmet Food and Gift Baskets division, which includes Medford-based Harry & David, saw a 13.6 percent decline for the quarter to $85.6 million, compared with $99.1 million in the prior year period.

Medford-based Harry & David was down $10 million to $11 million during the quarter, CFO Bill Shea told analysts during a morning conference call. While the quarter ended April 2, the company's figures would have been much different two weeks later.

"If we go from the period Jan. 1 to April 16, Easter, so we capture pears to pears a true comparison, Harry & David demand was up 2 percent for consumer e-commerce," Shea said.

Although 2 percent doesn't cause excitement in the C-Suite, it is a move in the right direction, he said. The $5 million left on the table the previous quarter is now in the books with more coming.

In the 31 months since 1-800-Flowers.Com acquired Harry & David, there has been a big push to develop online sales. That doesn't always go over well with longtime Harry & David customers, who have ordered for decades from catalogs.

"That is a delicate balance," CEO Chris McCann said. "Clearly, we want to continue to drive more into the digital marketing arena where we think we can get more returns. Exactly how fast we can do that will be something that we move forward on very cautiously ... . If you try and do that too quickly, you can lose your core catalog customer."

The company is ramping up its digital marketing capabilities as well as marketing strategies for Harry & David, he said.

The strategies include "trying to make the catalog much more efficient than it was this past year," he said. "But the balance between the two is going to be an evolution, not a revolution."

 — Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 541-776-4463 or business@mailtribune.com. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/GregMTBusiness, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/greg.stiles.31.