Harvey Norman has lodged a trademark application for the phrase “Rick Hart @ Harvey Norman” and an associated image in what could be a new business initiative for the Rick Hart brand Harvey Norman Holdings acquired from the ruins of the Clive Peeters collapse.
The application for this trademark was lodged on 20 November 2013 and first reported by ™Watch.net, a website owned and operated by Appliance Retailer contributor Tim Lince.
Since purchasing both the Clive Peeters and Rick Hart brands in 2010, along with 8 Rick Hart and 21 Clive Peeters stores, Harvey Norman has repeatedly expressed regret at this decision. In the first 12 months since purchase, Harvey Norman Holdings lost $41 million on these self-described “damaged” brands.
In August 2013, Harvey Norman chairman Gerry Harvey said, “We should have never have taken over that business. In every state it’s been proven to be the wrong decision.” Harvey further noted that Harvey Norman had closed the worst performing stores and that more closures would follow.
Since that time, Harvey Norman has either closed down or rebranded all of its Rick Hart stores. In the case of rebrandings, the stores were simply rebadged as Harvey Norman stores. An example of this is the former Rick Hart store in Osborne Park, Perth’s major appliance retailing suburb, which is now a Harvey Norman.
In addition to there no longer being any stores carrying the Rick Hart brand, the former rickhart.com.au website redirects to Harvey Norman’s homepage.
While this was happening, the original Rick Hart founder and Western Australian retail icon Rick Hart (the person) successfully launched the well-regarded Kitchen HQ retail brand, a member of the Narta Group of electrical retailers. Hart is joined at Kitchen HQ by retail veterans Nick Kirby and Spiros Scafidas. The trio opened their first store in Osborne Park in 2010 and added an O’Connor showroom in July 2013.
It is an oddity of the appliance industry that Rick Hart (the person) does not own his name as a brand. Hart partnered with Clive Peeters in 2005 for an combined initial public offering of Clive Peeters Limited, which included both Clive Peeters and Rick Hart stores. Greg Smith, the man who had been running Clive Peeters, became CEO and Hart was a director of the new publicly listed company.
Hart resigned from the Clive Peeters board in 2009, essentially forgoing any claims he had to the Rick Hart brand. One year later, Clive Peeters collapsed, placing the brand in the hands of receivers. Harvey Norman purchased the Rick Hart brand and originally attempted to trade off its popularity in Western Australia. This proved unsuccessful, leading to a scathing assessment by Hart:
I don’t think they knew how to run the brand, and I think they drove it in a different direction to where it was going before. No-one knows the business better than I do and, generally, when you get these big corporates involved they lose the soul of the business.
As soon as you get Eastern States corporate raiders, I always thought it [the Rick Hart brand] would disappear.
Harvey Norman’s application for a trademark incorporating Rick Hart is interesting because it suggests Harvey Norman has new plans for that brand. Recent efforts to close down, rebrand and restructure Rick Hart indicated that Harvey Norman was prepared to retire it for good.
Appliance Retailer placed calls to Harvey Norman to inquire as to their plans for Rick Hart @ Harvey Norman, and we will publish any response we receive.
The name evokes store-in-store concepts, such as the Dick Smith at David Jones installation announced earlier this year, and it could be a renewed attempt to leverage the famous Rick Hart brand to attract shoppers to Harvey Norman-branded stores.
This strategy could work in the West, where the Rick Hart brand is still very strong, though it is unlikely to have any appeal in the Eastern states.