Harvey Norman gets all touchy-feely about tech

Blaine Callard: dumped those annoying “Go Harvey, Goooo!” radio ads

Blaine Callard: dumped those annoying “Go Harvey, Goooo!” radio ads

 

Party time is back in the retail industry. Harvey Norman, the Australian furniture and electronics chain with a dozen stores in Ireland, hosted a bash for more than 170 people on Wednesday evening at its flagship outlet in Swords.

The event was to launch the store’s new new touchy-feely technology showroom, which cost more than €500,000. It was hosted by the chain’s chief executive in Ireland, Blaine Callard, a genial antipodean who should be awarded the freedom of the city for dumping those annoying “Go Harvey, Goooo!” radio ads.

Among the senior tech heads present were Liam McCann, Apple’s sales director for UK and Ireland; Philip Brady, the head of Canon Ireland; and Ki Kwon, the UK boss of the electronics giant LG.

Callard was particularly enthused about the “experiential” element of the new showroom. “People should learn something, they should see something new when they come into a showroom,” he told me.

The launch party was treated to a live in-store cookery demonstration by Simon Hulstone, the Michelin-starred UK chef who owns the Elephant in Devon. “It’s like having a television cookery show in the shop,” said Callard.

Harvey Norman is currently installing “live kitchens” in all 12 of its Irish stores, with four completed so far and the rest due by Christmas. Callard believes such investment will give his chain the edge as retailing recovers.

“A lot of retailers went to the wall during the recession, but some of them were bad retailers. They can survive in the good times, but a lot of the poor ones have been flushed out. We invested right through the recession when others stopped. You know the ones: those dusty old electronics stores.”

Callard is currently scouting for a site for a new store in Galway, “and we’re exploring a few other locations, too”.

Just don’t dust off those ads, Blaine. Our ears won’t be able to cope.

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