Harvey Norman sells a vast range of furniture, bedding, sleep surfaces, home appliances, audiovisual equipment, computer and communications equipment and software, and small appliances. In some markets, it also offers flooring, kitchens and bathrooms, and its brands include Harvey Norman, Domayne, Joyce Mayne and Space Furnitures. As Jo Wieden points out, the range is fairly evenly represented. “As a retailer, we sell products that are available elsewhere,” Ms. Wieden, managing director for Europe, begins to describe the company’s strength. “Our advantage is our global buying power, and our existence in diverse markets means that we can bring together an extremely broad and value-filled range for our customers at very good prices and with excellent service.”
Although Harvey Norman is not a producer, it nonetheless knows the value of trade fairs, from regional to international fairs. “It is extremely important to us that we work closely with our suppliers all over the world to bring exciting new products and technologies to market,” Ms. Wieden explains. “Trade shows are a great way to stay on top of trends and make sure we are the first to market with new innovations.” For that reason, the retailer attends the IFA in Berlin, the CES in Las Vegas and the E3 in Los Angeles for electronics. Furniture fairs include the Milan and Cologne fairs, as well as a variety of regional events relevant to different markets.
One special strength of Harvey Norman is its omnichannel strategy to approaching customers. That means that the company grabs customers by nearly any means possible: its website, physical stores and kiosks, social media, mobile devices, smart televisions, catalogues, and marketing via radio, television, magazines and billboards, to name just a few channels.
“We also have distribution points at 247 sites in Australia and New Zealand for easy collections and returns,” Ms. Wieden points out. “And we integrate our e-commerce platform with our stores, so we can provide in-store pickup of orders on the website or shipping from the store.” This strong positioning earned Harvey Norman third place as the Most Valuable Asia Pacific Brand by Interbrand for 2012.
“This strategy should help us expand our business,” Ms. Wieden says. “We see enormous potential to grow our business into further European markets while developing a healthy online business.” Harvey Norman is embracing the changes that are occurring in the retail sector. “Retail is experiencing a fundamental shift in the way people buy,” the managing director touches on the topic.
Online purchasing provides greater opportunities in terms of choice, and it is delivered right to the buyer’s door. Competitive prices keep consumers hooked. However, some customers still have the desire to touch the product to examine the size, material and quality of the item, and they enjoy having a knowledgeable sales associate explain the features and use of the product.
“While I believe that people will continue to enjoy the personalized experience that shopping in a physical store can offer, it is also essential that we provide an online experience to satisfy our customers. Retailers who do not strike a solid balance will find the future challenging.”
Harvey Norman was founded by Gerry Harvey and Ian Norman in 1982. Over the past 30 years, the retailer has managed to spread its wings to a clientele that spans multiple continents. At the end of 2011, Harvey Norman held 216 franchised complexes throughout Australia, trading under the brand names Harvey Norman with 185 complexes, Domayne with 16 complexes and Joyce Mayne with 15 complexes.
Locations in other countries include 31 stores in new Zealand, 14 stores in ireland, 13 stores in singapore, seven stores in Malaysia, five stores in slovenia and two stores in northern ireland. “In October of last year, we entered the Croatian market with our first store in the capital Zagreb,” the managing director adds.
The European market is a particularly challenging one, she notes, but it is one where Harvey Norman aims to expand its market share. The multibillion Australian dollar retailer’s value-added range combined with flexible terms of payment makes it an excellent option. Its strong global buying power and well-established name give consumers confidence to purchase from it.
The CEO of the entire company is Katie Page. Worldwide, Harvey Norman employs a staff of approximately 10,000, and nearly half of them work in Australia. The rest are distributed over new Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia. “Our employees are vital to our business, and their training is an integral part of that,” remarks Ms. Wieden. “We focus heavily on customer service training, product knowledge and selling skills. Our customers benefit from dealing with people who are informed and up to date about the products we sell.”
The managing director views the prospects of the retail world with excitement. “The ability to know exactly what a customer is looking for and being able to target that item to them specifically with online marketing is very efficient for both the retailer and the customer,” Ms. Wieden describes how the sector is changing. “We have come a long way from the hit-and-miss marketing campaigns of the past.”
She is not donning rose-coloured glasses, however. She understands the risk retailers face if they fail to acknowledge this change. Ms. Wieden sees Harvey Norman’s future in the development of the home connectivity sector. “That is a major focus for us as we move forward,” she says. “Smart products and appliances connect to make life much easier for the consumer. This is becoming a very exciting category, and our broad range of products for the entire home puts us in a solid position to bring an excellent offering to the market.”
The managing director also notes Harvey Norman’s leading position as a retailer for consumer electronics, furniture and homewares in Australia, new Zealand, Singapore, Malaysia, Ireland, Slovenia and Croatia. “It is our intention to continue to expand these markets,” she says.
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