By Keri Algar

SYDNEY, NSW: In an exclusive interview with Harvey Norman Ireland’s CEO, investigates why operations in Ireland went from establishing strong roots and enjoying buoyant growth in its early days, to recording a trading loss of $42 million in the last financial year.

Over the following days, will reveal the underlying factors that contributed to the retailer’s initial growth prior to 2008, the reasons behind these recent losses and the challenges it faces today, according to Blaine Callard, CEO of Harvey Norman Ireland.

“Prior to 2008, the Harvey Norman operation in Ireland was vibrant and growing,” said Callard.

“Comfort levels were high, our offer was competitive in the market, and we were growing rapidly both in turnover and store numbers.”

Today, there are 16 stores across the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland, the majority of which are located in the greater Dublin metropolitan area, and 56 individual store managers. According to Callard, many of these managers have less than four years experience.

“Harvey Norman’s success has been traditionally built on the back of strong independent entrepreneurial managers, veterans who know their industry and their businesses,” Callard writes.

“Due to rapid expansion here, and a revolving door of Australian managers ‘on loan’ for one or two years, today we have many store managers, many of whom are talented but still green and growing.

“The development of a high performance pool of managers is our top priority – one that was secondary during our rapid expansion.”

In fact, it was only this year that a centralised CEO position was created in Dublin to create cohesion between the divisions.

“This legacy of ‘inexperience’ is slowly being resolved now as our culture builds and our people get more kilometres under their belt,” Callard explained.

Callard said that Harvey Norman is not a business based solely on procedures and store layouts, but on internal culture and internal alignment.

Tomorrow on, we look at how Harvey Norman Ireland’s launch marketing was both beneficial and challenging.

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