Today, Harvey Norman opened its third store in Northern Ireland at Boucher Plaza. The growth comes on the back of excellent results for the Irish subsidiary which already has stores at Holywood Exchange and Newtownabbey.
The Boucher Road manager, Eamon McFadden is a retail veteran of 30 years and has worked in Harvey Norman in Newtownabbey for seven years. Previously, he worked at Land of Leathers, and managed the former Northern Ireland Electricity store, Shop Electric, on Belfast’s High Street.
In a recent interview with the Belfast Telegraph, McFadden explained how the growth of the Newtownabbey store had been the catalyst for the recent expansion. “When I started it was number 12 in the top stores in Ireland, but now it’s number two,” he said.
“Newtownabbey’s performance is up there with the best and that’s has given Harvey Norman confidence to go for a location, invest heavily, and employ more people.”
The new Boucher Road venture, is the first ‘Harvey Norman Home Centre’.
That means that as well as Harvey Norman lines – including a higher-end range – it will also have concessions operated by independents for other aspects of home improvement, such as paint and wallpaper, and curtains and fabrics, which will be run by well-known Belfast firm, The Spinning Wheel.
The new store occupies the former home of luxury furniture firm Fultons and according to McFadden, “We’ve taken over what was the most prestigious site in Belfast and made it even better.”
Unlike the ‘big box’ feel of Harvey’s Australian and New Zealand operations, some famous fittings from the former tenants remain – such as marble floors and a grand escalator in the foyer.
“We’ve opened it up a bit to make it a bit more modern – we wanted to have a modern, vibrant, furniture store,” he told the Telegraph.
A new restaurant has also been added, run by Irish chain Synge & Byrne.
The local industry is aware that all Harvey Norman stores have separate bedding and furniture sections, though unusually, McFadden will be the manager of both. He told the Telegraph he is pleased that his employer has confidence in him to run both, and knows the abilities of the members of the sales teams well.
“It takes enthusiasm and passion to do well in sales, and a bit of a drive and willingness to get on,” he said, adding that he was confident that the sales teams have the requisite qualities.
“They are all guys I have worked with for a long time, and we work very well together. We have Phil Hughes, who’s the best salesperson in Ireland for Harvey Norman, on the team.”
McFadden has also joined the buying team of Harvey Norman and has been on trips to learn about Italy’s furniture industry because the country is “renowned as a world leader in leather products”.