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Harvey Norman’s decision to stay open proved a winner


Harvey Norman’s decision to stay open and trade through the COVID19 pandemic has proven to be a winner, with sales surging by 17.5% in the first half of the year, beating analyst expectations.

High demand for electronic products, home appliances, and furniture and bedding underpinned the better than expected results and has enabled the retailer to pay a special dividend of 6¢ a share fully franked.

Harvey Norman founder and chairman Gerry Harvey says he saw a procession of products walk out the doors of his stores during the early stages of the pandemic.

“First of all it was freezers, then computers, then it was white goods, fridges and washed, then big-screen televisions, and then it went to furniture,” Mr Harvey tells Brooke Corte,

“The other really interesting thing to me was that it was exactly the same in the other seven countries we are in.”

Broadly speaking, retail sales fell off a cliff in March before strict COVID lockdown measures were enacted at the end of the month, leaving retailers with the difficult decision of whether or not doors should be kept open.

Mr Harvey questions whether government stimulus payments incentivised staying closed over battling on and remaining open.

“When sales dropped dramatically… those shops closed and then the government came out and said ‘we’ll pay your staff and the landlord will pay your rent’,

“It was better to stay closed, so that’s not a good way to do things in a way, it’s counterproductive,”

“You close your shop and then someone pays you more money to stay closed, and you can talk this around all over the place but at the end of the day that’s bloody stupid,”

Click play to hear the full interview with Gerry Harvey and Brooke Corte: