Consumers bite back as retail giant cops an online beating.

Darn that crazy internet thing, eh Gerry, it’s really making life tough.

I find Harvey Norman’s oh-so-ubiquitous ear-bashing style of advertising offensive, condescending and crass. (Harvey Norman is Australia’s leading electrical retailer). However, the public seems to accept the ads and has supported the retail giant mightily with their wallets for years. But clearly the subject of Santa is more sensitive than our poor ears…recently Harvey Norman (fondly known as Hardly Normal) ran a Christmas radio spot which talked about Santa getting a lap dance. Not so much Ho Ho as Tut tut, at least as far as blogger Melinda Tankard Reist was concerned.

You see Ms TR twittered her outrage about the offending ad and the support she received forced the retailer to pull the ad.You can read her self-congraluatory blog post here.

Clearly, Hardly Normal’s people were clearly monitoring social media coverage. So they must be upset indeed by the phenomenally vehement response to their boss’s disastrous proclamations about online purchases below $1000 being unfairly tax free. Years ago Gerry Harvey rejected the need for a decent website let alone a proper multi-channel retailing strategy and he must be ruing his short-sightedness as he watches millions of dollars move online (where lower prices are now even lower thanks to the strength of the Australian dollar). His response, along with other (old school) retail big wigs Solly Lew and Bernie Brooks essentially informed the last few remaining punters who weren’t buying on line that they should be; and furthermore was read by the public as being the whinging of a few billionaires who’d been ripping them off for years.

Typical of this: Solomon Lew pointed out that approximately a billion dollars a month is going offshore via online sales, adding
“Now, that billion dollars a month is doing nothing for Australia. There is no Australian suppliers that are involved, there is no Australian labour that’s involved”. Instant and universal response: a dishonest nationalist call rendered utterly hypocritical by the fact that he’s pretty much exclusively selling imported goods himself.

In my view, the extent of this backlash is newsworthy in its own right. This is about the strongest consumer reaction I’ve ever seen. Just scan the comments at the bottom of this story from the SMH – one of many such examples. The net always promised to level the balance of power between corporations and their customers, and this is one of the best examples. (The rejection of Gap’s new logo is another).
Gerry Harvey STFU
Having made a fortune from cutting out the middle man, Gerry is belatedly discovering that he’s a middle man too. And that his folksy man-of-the-people image is utterly without credibility. And that his store experience is detested. And, yes, his ads have come in for a few hits (surprisingly few I reckon). Leading retail business Inside Retailing site pulled no punches in critiquing Harvey et al’s misjudged campaign.

Lastly, outside of the retail billionaires club, the retail industry has rightly turned on him…Fair Imports Alliance spokesperson Brad Kitschke said the campaign had proven “a public relations nightmare” for the broader retail community. “We have been working on this issue for a long time. Where was Gerry Harvey or Solomon Lew when we were fighting to have this issue addressed in July 2010 or for the five years before that? They have jumped on board at the last minute and have royally stuffed things up,” he said. (Fair Import Alliance represents the Australian Retailers Association, Australian Sporting Goods Association, Bicycle Industries Australia, Australian Toy Association, Photo Marketing Association, Australian Fishing Trade Association, Australian Booksellers Association, Australian Music Association and the Retail Cycle Traders Australian).

As one post put it: Go, Harvey, Go!
consumer rebellion


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