Online Shoppers Kill the Christmas Spirit

HARVEY Norman isn’t expecting a wonderful Christmas after consumer electronics sales copped a hiding in 2011 with the retail giant taking a swipe at tech-savvy consumers.

Chief executive Gerry Harvey warned the upcoming festive season would be “okay” but it would not be the best Christmas ever.

“This year I can’t say that,” he said.

“There’s no sign out there in the community that we’re going to have this wonderful Christmas. I don’t see it.”

Curiously, Mr Harvey took a swipe at technology-obsessed consumers who spend great chunks of their days looking at computer, tablet and mobile phone screens.

“They live on the bloody things. It’s so invasive into your lifestyle.”

He said people could live to regret the advent of the internet over the next 10 to 15 years.

“You can’t live without them.”

Mr Harvey says stores are selling large numbers of televisions and audio equipment, but prices continue to fall.

“I don’t ever remember selling as much product as we’re selling now while having so little turnover,” Mr Harvey told the company’s annual general meeting (AGM) in Sydney.

“It’s extremely difficult.”

Retailers around the world were having difficulties in the current environment.

“If you’re in the audio/visual, computer segment in retailing, you’re getting a hiding and there is no end in sight for that hiding.”

Harvey Norman, which began selling televisions in 1961, now sells huge volumes of computers, televisions and tablets.

Mr Harvey said online retail sales had increased every year, but businesses had to be realistic about the effectiveness of selling on the web, particularly as accurate sales and profits figures were difficult to come by.

Harvey Norman’s board believes its new online business will grow to one per cent of total sales this year, and by one per cent per year for the next three years.

However, Mr Harvey said there were a lot of “bull s****ers” spruiking the benefits of online retailing.

Businesses with a large exposure to electronics categories, such as Dick Smith, JB Hi-Fi and department stores, had a huge problem because they didn’t sell whitegoods, furniture or homeware.

“They’re in a very precarious position and somewhere along the line some decision has to be made about Dick Smith and JB Hi-Fi is in a similar situation.,” he added.

Harvey Norman has reduced the amount of space dedicated to audio/visual and computers and is now concentrating on other categories.

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