By Claire Reilly

The head of Harvey Norman's Irish subsidiary has announced that the company has no plans to exit the Irish market, despite the company reporting a €23.3 million loss for the last financial year.

In the company’s audited financial statements for the year ended 30 June 2011, which were submitted to the Irish Companies Registration Office this month, Harvey Norman Ireland reported a pre-tax loss of €23.3 million, which was down from a loss of €31.3 million in the previous financial year.

According to the directors’ report, “this was due to the continuing difficult retail trading environment caused by tough economic conditions and continued lack of consumer confidence.

“Consumer spending remained flat and continued government austerity measures have resulted in structural weakness in the domestic economy, and the retail sector in particular,” the report read.

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Speaking to the Irish Independent newspaper, Harvey Norman Ireland CEO Blaine Callard said he had high hopes for the Irish business, despite recent poor performance and the struggling economy, and that the Irish network of stores had seen “a bit more buoyancy” in recent weeks.

“Predicting the Irish economy is very difficult, but we are encouraged that even in difficult times we can achieve loss reduction and revenue growth,” said Callard. “When the economy bottoms out and returns even to some modest growth, we'll be here, and we'll be profitable.”

Callard added that the company's committment to Ireland "will not change" and that he hoped the Irish division of Harvey Norman would break even within four or five years, adding to the cautious outlook that was adopted by Harvey Norman’s company directors.

“The directors’ key focus going forward is on ensuring that the group takes measures to deal with the continuing recessionary environment, and to focus on continuing to grow market share whilst reducing and controlling costs throughout the business.

“Strong roots have been established in the Irish market. The Harvey Norman brand continues to strengthen in Ireland…and is committed to Ireland for the long term.