By Claire Reilly

Following Harvey Norman’s drive into the world of e-commerce, the head of the company’s Computers’ Division, Ben McIntosh, spoke exclusively to to discuss what impact it would have on the company’s franchisee network, and to talk up the strengths of the new multi-channel offering.

“From customers the response has been quite pleasing,” said McIntosh. “It’s been well and truly above our expectations.

“I think ultimately the market is what demands the strategy of retailers. And I think there was definitely a need and want from our consumers to have an online offering. A multi-channel offering is the way to go for Harvey Norman, I think we’ve made the right decision.”

While Gerry Harvey has long been criticised for his tardiness in moving into online retail, McIntosh insisted that Harvey himself was “100 per cent” supportive of the new strategy.

“I think Gerry’s comments have always been about online standalone. He’s never really been all that negative about multi-channel – Gerry’s 100 per cent behind our multi-channel strategy. We wouldn’t be doing it without his support obviously, he’s the boss.

“Harvey Norman has come out and done it in a very good way,” added McIntosh. “The quality of the site is excellent, our product offering is excellent and our service levels are second to none thus far. We’ve been looking at different strategies for some time. We were rushing to make sure we had the service and the whole strategy correct rather than rushing to a deadline.”

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Current yesterday revealed that Harvey Norman Online was acting as an independent franchise, and that the website’s terms and conditions stipulated it did not have to sell products for the same price as bricks and mortar stores. However, McIntosh insisted that no franchisees would be sold short in the new arrangement.

“All our stores, including our online, are operated by independent franchisees,” he said. “However, with our pricing model, we would expect all our franchisees to work together for the benefit of the customer. Suffice to say all franchisees are supportive of our online move. There is no trade off or play off between franchisees with our e-commerce strategy.”

According to McIntosh, the company has “a system set up internally to ensure all franchisees are supported by our online move,” which involved a level of financial support.

“It’s only just the beginning,” he added. “As one of the major retailers in Australia that hasn’t had an online multi-channel strategy up until now we’re going to be learning a lot.

“You’re going to see a lot of development and new service initiatives to make sure that when customers come to they will get one of the best services you can get from an online retailer, anywhere in the world.”

I’m very confident and very bullish that we’re going to continue to have an A-class service offering with all our customers.