When the National Cabinet implemented Stage 1 of a shutdown of non-essential activity across the country on 23 March, 2020, Appliance Retailer contacted several major electrical retailers for an update on their trading conditions, in light of the announcement.

Harvey Norman confirmed that its Australian franchisees would continue to operate and that it was “business as usual at this stage”. This followed store closures in Slovenian, Croatia and Malaysian stores per government advice.

In a trading update, Harvey Norman Australia reported a 9.1% sales increase from 1 March to 17 March 2020 with comparable sales up 9.4% in the same period, attributed to 300% growth in freezer sales and 100% growth in air purifiers, according to Harvey Norman chairman, Gerry Harvey.

JB Hi-Fi remained open for business, releasing a trading update for the period 1 January to 22 March 2020.

JB Hi-Fi Australia saw sales growth of 9.1% and comparable sales growth of 8.8%. JB Hi-Fi New Zealand recorded a 2% drop in both total sales and comparable sales, while The Good Guys recorded growth of 10.4% in total sales and comparable sales.

Bunnings stores remained open and online shopping including delivery was available for customers unable to visit a store.

In a statement shared with Appliance Retailer, Bunnings managing director, Mike Schneider said, “We understand the importance of a reliable supply of key products for both DIY and trade customers, particularly with emergency repairs and maintenance, and we will continue to look at ways in which we can continue to service these needs in the changing environment. We are also hearing from customers that have projects to do, whether big or small, around the home is a useful physical and mental distraction to the challenges of extended periods of time at home.”

Bunnings parent company, Wesfarmers, said all of the group’s businesses – including Kmart, Target and Officeworks – implemented a series of actions to protect the health and safety of teams, including restricting travel and meetings, adopting flexible working arrangements and implementing additional health and safety protocols in stores, support offices and other workplaces.

Shaver Shop continued to operate, releasing a trading update reporting an 11% decrease in total like for like sales, including online, while the rate of decline in LFL sales in bricks and mortar stores was 23%.

“Our online channel is performing better, but the growth in this channel is not enough to offset the decline in sales observed in our B&M stores in recent weeks,” the statement read.

“It is now just too difficult to forecast with any degree of certainty, what our sales or earnings will be in the weeks and months ahead.”

Bi-Rite was keeping a close eye on the situation as it was evolving daily, according to Abdul Kayum Sacur from head office.

“The first quarter of the calendar year has been quite strong in terms of sales uplift despite the challenges faced not just from the coronavirus, but bushfires and drought throughout the country. Certain categories have been driven through panic buying and have created stock constraints nationally with suppliers advising they will not be able to replenish stock until June.

“With regards to daily operations, our new point of sale system allows store owners to do back-end work remotely including purchase orders, reporting and even sales should the need arise. Our support office team are in a position where everyone can continue to operate remotely without disruption and face to face meetings are being replaced by Zoom or Skype. Our priority at this stage is ensuring that every precaution is being taken whether it is in our office or on the floor to minimise the risk of exposure to the coronavirus.”

Camberwell Electrics store owner, Hans Vanderstadt said his business remained open, but he was preparing for the next stage of the shutdown plan. Although he said an appliance store could be considered “essential” if a customer’s refrigerator was to break down for example.

Bing Lee confirmed its stores were not impacted by the restrictions but as the situation is fluid, the retailer was monitoring government advice daily.

Myer also confirmed with Appliance Retailer that its stores remained open for business.