What doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger: Harvey Norman Ireland

By Keri Algar

SYDNEY, NSW: Blaine Callard, Harvey Norman Ireland CEO told Current.com.au why he thinks the operations will come out “stronger, fitter and at full speed” post 2011.

According to Callard, 2011 is sure to be a year of little or no growth in terms of consumer spending, due to a newly announced four year economic plan and the implementation of another tough budget. Discretionary spending will be tightened, he said.

Nevertheless, the Republic of Ireland Government has accepted a European bailout, and “for many Irish consumers, the bailout and the four year plan has provided a much needed sense of certainty,” Callard said.

Certainly, independent industry body Retail Ireland’s figures reveal the electrical goods category has experienced strong upward growth since mid-2009, which stabilised throughout 2010. Furthermore, consumer spending is forecast to grow 0.7 per cent in 2011, which when compared to a negative growth of 7 per cent in 2009, is a monetary resurgence.

Taking this into consideration and having an understanding of the challenges already encountered, Callard intends to transform the Irish operation’s weaknesses — green management and brand appeal — and use an improved structure against the downturn’s legacy.

“The focus on our operation will be on restructuring to control costs, accelerating development of our people — specifically our store management pool — and continued realignment of our brand to appeal to a broader audience,” he said.

“Combined with further market consolidation, I am confident that our financial performance in 2011 will not deteriorate further, and will most likely strengthen as we reengineer from within.”

Amidst the potentially slow macroeconomic recovery and the initial “growing pains of an outpost so far from its parent”, this is a formidable task, requiring tenacity. 

“Ireland’s boom was underpinned by several factors. Namely, it’s geographical proximity to the heart of Europe, an educated English speaking workforce, use of the common Euro currency, a barrier free trading environment with the Continent and a highly competitive corporate tax rate that attracted significant foreign investment. All these fundamentals remain today.

“In the medium-to-long term, I believe we can emerge from the downturn fitter, stronger, and at full speed, as many of our competitors contract their marketing activities, cede marketshare, hibernate, or close.”

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