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I’m not one to throw stones at other people’s business leadership – but something has been churning around in my belly all week since I read that Gerry Harvey has reduced his online forecasts.

As I began to write this post I received a good overview from Business Spectator on it’s thoughts on the large retailers and the online space.

The thing that I find concerning about Mr Harvey’s approach to online – is simply his inconsistency. I would be worried if I worked in his online team, that is at some point I might simply become a rounding error and find that I did not have a job.

Smart Company has already given Mr Harvey three pieces of advice on how he can improve his online performance. Namely: emphasize deals, reduce shipping time and redesign the site – all good ideas.

I see something else that is very much missing. It is leadership and vision. Gerry Harvey was revolutionary 30 years ago when he invented the store within a store franchise retailing model. One could argue he was a visionary and showed amazing leadership – and he has consistently executed the same model in many other retail brands. So why does he lack the same level of commitment to the online space?

Perhaps Gerry expects online to be predictable. This is never the case – no business is. The greatest ideas are not necessarily the one’s that fly. The Internet is a complete leveler… a tiny business can sit side by side with a massive retailer and get the same traffic. [Eleven years ago when we launched RedBalloon in the ninemsn shopping portal – we sat side by side with David Jones]

Not unlike traditional retail one needs an online reputation – and it takes years to cultivate a deep and consistent search engine presence.

Underlying all of this I would argue that it is about focus. Kogan has been absolutely single minded about his proposition – as have each of the deal sites. And they have listened very carefully to their customers ensuring that they have the right product, at the right place, at the right price.

A reality check please… I understand that revenues for the Harvey Norman Group in 2011 were $7,76 billion – did he really believe that for this NEW online business he could realistically achieve an income of $388m in the first year – that is apparently what 5% of his earnings would be.

Well Gerry has had a reality check – but for the rest of us out here in the online world we are growing our businesses steadfastly, with consistency, vision and leadership – through trial and error, listening to our customers and responding. Perhaps if he went back to the basics, if he remembered what it took to build his first store he might get the results he wants… in time.




Reader Interactions


  1. I couldn’t agree more Naomi, I find it amazing that such a pioneer was so negative on the online retail experience a few years ago. It was almost propaganda like, but as all successful online businesses have discovered (large and small) this is a powerful way to reach the consumer in a day and age where consumers want 24 hour access to ‘retail therapy’.

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