“We want to take over the UK” – Gerry Harvey

By Sarah Falson

SYDNEY: Harvey Norman co-founder and chairman, Gerry Harvey, said he wants to expand his electrical retail business across more countries, at a business lunch today hosted by the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce at Star City’s Grand Ballroom in Sydney.

"This year we’re nudging a $6 million turnover from our Australian and New Zealand stores along with our nine stores in Ireland and those in Slovenia, Singapore and Malaysia. But we want to be in North Ireland, too, and Scotland. We want to take over the UK, even Italy,” he said at the lunch entitled ‘The Secrets of My Success – from retailing to horses and beyond’.

At 67 years of age, Gerry Harvey entertained a crowd of approximately 500 retailers, business analysts and journalists, which was sponsored and attended by LG Electronics, Optus, Westfield, Coca-Cola Amatil, Lexus of Chatswood, Unwired and ANZ, amongst others, in addition to the Australia-Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Harvey’s speech covered people and events from his public and private life, including ACCC chairman, Alan Fells, and the 2002 legal action for ‘bait advertising’ brought against the retail giant; his wife and advertising partner, Katie Page; and his love of horses.

“I have 800 or 900 horses, because you should have a passion in your life. Never retire. Don’t be a boring bastard,” he said.

Harvey also took the crowd on a linear tour of his business life, from his schooling at Katoomba High in the Blue Mountains and university at All Saints College in Bathurst, to his first appliance job as a humble door-to-door vacuum salesman and finally to the beginning of the Harvey Norman empire as we know it – the first Harvey Norman store on Parramatta Road in Sydney, which Norman purchased for $3 million in 1982 and turned over $750,000 in its first nine months of trading.

Only yesterday Harvey Norman Holdings announced an 18 per cent sales increase for the four months ending October 2006, compared to a year earlier, and as recently as Monday, Harvey Norman chief operating officer, John Slack-Smith, said he was continuing dialogue with a number of Retravision NSW stores who may not migrate to either Retravision Victoria-Tasmania or Retravision Queensland under a deed of company arrangement passed by creditors in Sydney on Tuesday.

Up to 50 Retravision NSW stores currently remain undecided on their future, with Harvey Norman now bidding to attract disillusioned Retravision NSW stores by rebranding the stores.

Other than migrating to the adjacent Retravision sister states, the options available to them include joining another buying group including Harvey Norman, Narta or the newly-created BSR business which offers Betta Electrical and Chandlers franchises.

The Harvey Norman chain now includes 200 stores worldwide, with this number likely to grow if Harvey’s plans are successful.

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