What Is a Harvest Strategy?

A harvest strategy involves a reduction or a termination of investments in a product, product line, or line of business so that the entities involved can reap—or, harvest—the maximum profits. A harvest strategy is typically employed toward the end of a product's life cycle when it is determined that further investment will no longer boost product revenue.

Key Takeaways

  • A harvest strategy involves reducing spending on an established product in order to maximize profits.
  • Outdated products often are the subject of harvest strategies as profits are reinvested in newer models or newer technologies.
  • Strategies for venture capitalists to exit successful investments also are referred to as harvest strategies.

Understanding Harvest Strategy

Products have life cycles, and when the item nears the end of its life cycle, it usually will not benefit from additional investments and marketing efforts. This product stage is called the cash cow stage, and it is when the asset is paid off and requires no further investment. Therefore, employing a harvest strategy will allow companies to harvest the maximum benefits or profits before the item reaches its decline stage. Companies often use the proceeds from the ending item to fund the development and distribution of new products. Funds also may go toward promoting existing products with high growth potential.

For example, a soft-drink company may terminate investments in its established carbonated product to reallocate funds to its new line of energy drinks. Companies have several harvest strategy options. Often they will rely on brand loyalty to drive sales, thereby reducing or eliminating marketing expenses for new products. During harvest, the company can limit or eliminate capital expenses, such as the purchase of new equipment needed to support the ending item. Also, they can restrict spending on operations.

A harvest strategy may involve the gradual elimination of a product or product line when technological advances render the product or line obsolete. For example, companies selling stereo systems gradually eliminated sales of record turntables in favor of CD players as compact disc sales soared and record sales declined. Also, when product sales consistently fall below the target level of sales, companies may gradually eliminate the related products from their portfolios.

Computers, cellphones, and other electronics products are common objects of harvest strategies as they quickly become outdated and profits are put into newer gadgets.

Special Considerations

Harvest strategy also refers to a business plan for investors such as venture capitalists or private equity investors. This method is commonly referred to as an exit strategy, as investors seek to exit the investment after its success. Investors will use a harvest strategy to collect the profit from their investment so that fund can be reinvested into new ventures. Most investors estimate that it will take between three and five years to recoup their investment. Two common harvest strategies for equity investors are to sell the company to another company or to make an initial public offering (IPO) of company stock.