By Patrick Avenell

It’s one of the most visited websites in the world, and with over 2.6 million articles currently online, Wikipedia could well be the world’s most popular and definitive encyclopaedia – but what does that mean for Australia’s retail groups?

“Harvey Norman is a large Australian-based retailer of electrical, computer, furniture, entertainment and bedding goods. It is effectively a franchise and the main brand owned by Harvey Norman Holdings Ltd,” is how the most recognisable name in the Australian industry is described.

Harvey Norman’s page is quite long, and features chapter headings including History, Company structure, Home renovations, Move into stationary and Sponsorship. Most interesting is the Controversies section, which outlines three incidents from the retail group’s past.

Two of these controversies involve run-ins with the ACCC, the third outlines the recent comments by Gerry Harvey, in which the chief executive compared the brand’s fortunes in the Emerald Isle to the Irish potato famine.

A less colourful account of retail is given on the JB Hi-Fi page, which blandly describes the listed retailer as “an Australian CD, DVD, Blu-ray disc, video game and consumer electronics chain store.”

There’s a review of the company’s history, from its humble beginnings in Keilor East, Melbourne, in 1974, through to the company’s floating on the ASX in 2003. Along the way, an uncredited source declares that JB Hi-Fi was one of the first Aussie retailers to abandon the vinyl format and dedicate itself to compact discs.

There’s a brief bit about how the company acquired Clive Anthony’s, but no mention of recent intense speculation that Woolworths was set to bid for the group – I guess only we in the industry cared about that…

Lack of care is the theme at Clive Peeters’ page, which is just a one-paragraph, three-sentence summary of the retailer. Readers learn when the first stores were opened in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney (1993, 2001 and 2006, according to referenced source material), and that Clive Peeters acquired Rick Hart in 2005.

Where Clive Peeters does make it e-e-easy on the eyes, however, is with a photo album on its page, showcasing the cooking, TV, AV, air conditioning, kitchen, whitegoods and gizmo departments.

The most professionally laid out page is Bing Lee’s, which begins with a brief overview, including the wonderfully triumphant “Bing Lee is the largest privately-held electrical retail business in New South Wales with 35 stores and a turnover of about $400 million”.

The history section goes through the key dates in its history, from start-up in 1957, expansion and franchising, and the deaths of legends Bing, in 1987, and Ken, in 2007.

There’s a sentence on Bing Lee’s sponsorship of Sydney FC in the A-League, before a reminder of why this particular retailer is always on everyone’s lips; under Themes, it is written, “The theme music used by the company is the Monty Python tune of I Like Chinese.”

As for the others, tried to find a page for Betta Electricals, but we were redirected to a page about a colourful, freshwater, ray-finned fish. Joyce Mayne and Domayne both came up as Harvey Norman. We were asked to check the spelling of Retravision.

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