One More Thing: Harvey Norman profits spark bubbly shindig

Australian retail chain back in profit in 2014 after racking up losses of more than €110m

Blaine Callard, Harvey Norman’s Irish chief executive, appears to have turned operation around. Photograph: Alan Betson

Blaine Callard, Harvey Norman’s Irish chief executive, appears to have turned operation around. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Blaine Callard, the chief executive in Ireland of the Aussie retail chain Harvey Norman, hosted a shindig in its head office earlier this month. Or perhaps less of a shindig and more of a ceremony.

Until recently, a very large balthazar of champagne – that’s about 12 litres of the good stuff, if you’re thirsty – sat in a glass case in Harvey Norman’s north Dublin head office. The sign next to it read: “Break glass in case of profit. To be opened after one quarter of consolidated net profit.”

Well, they’ve broken it.

Poor old Harvey has had a tough time of it in Ireland, racking up losses of more than €110 million here since its entry during the boom. Callard was parachuted in more than five years ago to try and turn the furniture and electronics retailer around, which he appears to have done.

Harvey Norman’s Irish operation returned to profitability in the three months to the end of last December. In the second half of last year, the listed Australian company said it also boosted its sales in the Republic by more than 7 per cent, and by more than 19 per cent in Northern Ireland. Full year results are out today.

Callard hosted about 160 of its senior staff, including store managers and head office employees, two weeks ago for the ceremonial opening of the champagne.

Some of those present said it tasted “sweet”, although that might have had as much to do with the occasion as the booze itself. But rather disappointingly, it was a little flat. It sometimes happens with those oversized bottles.

No word yet on whether Callard opened it with his hands, or via the more traditional French way of tackling a balthazar: lopping the top off the bottle with the back of a sword, a method known as sabrage.

For perhaps the first time ever, it would have been appropriate to yell Go Harvey, Gooooo . . .

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