Harvey Norman set to finally launch online store
The move comes as Harvey and a suite of bricks-and-mortar retailers including David Jones and Myer have continued to lobby the Government to introduce a 10% tax on all online purchases from overseas sites due to shoppers escaping GST.
All three retailers are now operating in the online space, having upgraded their digital stores in the past 12 months.
"By this time next year you'll see Harvey Norman with a pretty sizeable internet presence. My heart's beating very strongly on whether we make any money out of it," Harvey told News.com.au.
"I haven't got any choice. I've got to cannibalise our stores."
Gerry Harvey was contacted this morning for comment, but no reply was received before publication.
Although Harvey Norman has been expanding its online presence for some time by including product catalogues on its website, combined with other location features and pricing comparison calculators, Harvey says he has been pushed into online retail once and for all and will start selling goods.
Harvey went on to the say that although Harvey Norman "has been the pace-setter" for a long time, he admitted the competition is "kicking us on the internet at the moment".
However, he repeated his long-held belief that internet retailing may not be as lucrative as some believe, saying that "there's no history of anyone making money on it".
"I'm not against it," he said. "I'm trying to get on at the right time."
However, the comments come two years after Harvey told SmartCompany in late 2008 that online retailing was a "dead end". They also come months after Harvey alluded to setting up an overseas-based store in order to capitalise on GST exemptions.
That promise came alongside a similar pledge from Myer chief executive Bernie Brookes. Myer eventually did launch the myfind.com store, but Brookes has said the site will mostly be for discounted stock, with the Myer.com.au store reserved for higher-quality items at premium prices.
Sam Yip, senior research manager at Telsyte, says there is definitely a trend in this area, but that larger retailers will only be able to record real growth if they devote significant resources to inventory and customer service.
"I think the real winners will be those companies who go online, and actually fulfil their actions in the back-end. You have to develop an online system that works with customers, and that's a challenge for any large retailer."
"It's a massive shift, and it's not going to happen overnight."