By Patrick Avenell

SYDNEY, NSW: Gerry Harvey is now distancing himself from the furore surrounding the targeted advertising awareness campaign to implement a tax on overseas purchases under $1,000.

If Norman and fellow retailer Solomon Lew thought they had general support for their position prior to making these calls, they are now certainly and painfully aware of how out of the touch that view was.

Alternatively, if this campaign is simply about pressuring the Federal Government – or even the various State Governments – to make changes, then it could still be an eventual, though qualified success.

In the immediate hours following Harvey’s call, which was presented on numerous online news sites in video form, the term ‘Gerry Harvey’ trended worldwide on Twitter. Not just Australia, where Harvey is an iconic, and traditionally well-liked, figure, but worldwide. Of all the things everyone in the world was Tweeting about, he was one of the top 10. Suffice to say that virtually every single tweet was derisive of Harvey’s call for manufactured improved competitiveness.

Harvey has been quoted on Fairfax online sites saying he will be backing away from the campaign. In his revealing remarks, Harvey seems to grasp exactly how the online world works, which is strange considering how poorly Harvey Norman has thus far responded to the online retail threat.

“'You might have got a nasty phone call or a letter back in the old days but now anything slightly controversial, these people, whoever they might be, they go for you zealously and with hatred all over Twitter,'' Harvey is quoted as saying.

“If you are a CEO of a company and you speak out and then the board gets involved…it is suicidal. Because of my profile, I then get all these threats and people hone in on me. It becomes me, Gerry Harvey…billionaires, greedy, ugly, old, out-of-date c…., and the people writing this seem to think we have been ripping them off for years and that we deserve this.”

But already the campaign may be working. As reported on late last year, the Federal Government is now making formal enquiries into the state of the Australian retail environment, and the impact global online sales is having on it.

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