Has Gerry Harvey Called In His Mates To Get Him Out Of A PR Hole?

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COMMENT: There is nothing like rounding up your high profile mates or the odd media group where you spend millions of advertising dollars to lobby for you, when you have dug a hole that you now find yourself struggling to get out of.It appears that David Penberthy, the editor-in-chief of News Limited’s opinion website, The Punch, is a big fan of Gerry Harvey after he went to bat for the Chairman of Harvey Norman over the weekend.

I am not saying that Penberthy, who was editor of The Daily Telegraph in Sydney, Australia, from April 2005 until November 2008, has been influenced in anyway by the Harvey Norman chain or Gerry Harvey personally.

In fact Penberthy says in his comment piece that he is not sopping up to a bloke with deep pockets who helps keep News Ltd afloat.

But he does say that it’s a novel thrill to write something an advertiser might enjoy.

He said Gerry Harvey has become something of a hate figure in Australia and that he is puzzled as to why. He claims that Harvey has probably left himself open to attacks because, unlike other chief executives who prefer to fly under the radar, Harvey speaks his mind and is always prepared to front up for a fight.

Which is half the problem for Harvey Norman, as Gerry Harvey loves publicity and quite often opens his mouth before thinking of the consequences.

Like the time he highlighted the poor service his Company delivers by dressing up as a customer for a TV program.

Then there was the issue of his call for a 10% GST on products under $1,000 purchased online.

Really Gerry, I thought you–with all your PR, marketing connections and your knowledge of the average punter–would have known most people hate being told where to shop and hate even more paying a higher price for goods when they can pick up similar stock at a cheaper price elsewhere.  

Remember all those Sony products you sold that were 60% dearer than overseas products? And then there are all the iPad and iPhone accessories along with some of the iPod attach devices that are up to 90% dearer than what people are able to buy online.

The media are not stupid, especially News Ltd and Fairfax publications, who realise that the best place to be is on the side of the consumer and not some stinking rich billionaire who after bagging the web for years realises it actually does have a future and that consumers will actually shop online both locally and internationally. 

This is why most media organisations are supporting the underdog without realising the consequences of their actions on employment and local traders.

 

Penberthy said that apart from having committed the apparent sin of working hard and making lots of money, Harvey is disliked for two reasons. In our hyper-materialistic society, where we want everything immediately at the cheapest price, Harvey is disliked because he has had the temerity to question the explosion in tax-free online shopping which has sent hundreds of local retailers to the wall.

Really, wasn’t it Gerry Harvey and his in house marketing experts who created “cheapest price” retailing to the point that they have now taken consumer electronic prices down to a level that are unsustainable for both the retailer and vendor? It was only a week ago that a senior Harvey Norman store operator said that he was dying to get hold of the new geration Smart TVs. “We will have the cheapest in town” he said. Really, brand new technology that early adopters will pay a premium for from day one already being discounted.

Penberthy said that as the face of a mega-big business it’s easy to see why many would presume that someone such as Harvey is motivated by greed. His comments are actually truer of small business than big business. A company with the spread of Harvey Norman is better placed to absorb international competition than a small business.

The second reason Harvey is disliked is because he’s apparently complicit in the destruction of planet Earth. Harvey is the subject of a highly personalised attack by the left-wing activist group Get Up and the environmental organisation Market for Change, which has decided to make some groovy little YouTube ads ripping off the “Go Harvey Go” slogan over the retailer’s promotion of Australian-made furniture.

There have been a lot of dumb campaigns over the years but this one is the stupidest I have seen. Indeed, if our closest primates, the orangutans, were able to talk, they would probably be shaking their heads in disbelief at the actions of Get Up in launching this juvenile and ludicrous assault on the only retailer discouraging the purchase of foreign-made furniture made with rainforest timber in countries which pay their workers bugger all and couldn’t give a damn about the environment.

Anyone who reads Sunday papers would have seen those inserted Harvey Norman magazines which are wholly devoted to the promotion of Australian-made furniture. As far as I can tell, they are the only retailers who produce such an insert.

This is where Penberthy is right and it is where Gerry Harvey needs support.

We all make mistakes and Gerry Harvey does have a track record of putting his foot in his mouth but when it comes to supporting local industries while using plantation timber for his furniture manufacturing operations he has to be commended.

 

I, like Penberthy, urge everyone to go along to Harvey Norman and buy a locally made table. But as far as consumer electronics and IT go, Gerry Harvey has a long way to go.

Wasn’t it Gerry Harvey who recently launched an online gaming site fully importing cheap games from a tax haven? It’s amazing what competition does.

Readers of News Ltd publications including the Daily Telegraph and the Herald Sun in Melbourne responded to the comment piece with the comments of their own.

Here is a few of the comments:

Adam said:
“Gerry Harvey promoted Microsoft products instead of the Open Source equivalent. Result? Tens of Millions of dollars was sent out of Australia to the US for perhaps no benefit. In fact the people who bought those products are now already having to continue paying money to support the proprietary file format they got locked into. Gerry Harvey does not support Australian IT because he does not support Open Source”.

Carpetman of Sommerville said:

“Simple Sam can see the Harvey Norman business model is dead! Both Gerry and get up have got a lot to answer for!”

To see the full David Penberthy article, click here

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