Retail behemoth Coles Myer launched a serious bid for mainstream computer sales stardom last week by outbidding foreign suitors for the Internet trading pot of gold which is Harris Technology.
Confirming last week's story that Harris Technology was to be acquired, (see ARN, March 24, page 1) managing director Ron Harris said last Thursday that he had sold 100 per cent of his organisation to Australia's largest retail player.
The stock exchange-listed Coles Myer has for some time been making a song and dance about expanding into computer retailing. With the estimated worth of Harris stretching into the millions, both parties agreed to keep the sale price confidential.
"We talked to several parties but this was by far the best for the company, the staff and the owner," Harris said.
"The Harris Technology name will remain in its own right, as will the staff. It will be run as a separate business unit just as Coles Myer does with its other companies.
"I will remain as the chief executive officer and will continue to run the business for the next three years at least," Harris added. "We've developed some leading-edge technology and to now be working with the largest Australian company in its field is great for our future."
In a press statement issued last week, Coles Myer CIO John Wood said: "The purchase of Harris Technology will enable us to broaden our retail offerings through the introduction of a successful and proven online shopping concept."
The current and forecast continued growth of PC sales is recognised as a category Coles Myer needed to be in, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Harris Technology will make an attractive addition to a Web-based joint venture with Microsoft, Telstra and Zivo, which the retailer announced recently.
"The concept has a number of attractive applications across the Coles Myer brands for a range of direct-selling opportunities including the introduction of in-store kiosks to support existing product and category ranges," Wood said.
Harris saw no conflict of interest between his organisation and Officeworks, another Coles Myer company that sells computers, and expected growth to continue in all markets where it already plays.
"We will probably continue to develop the systems we have, but see the relationships with Officeworks as being complementary," Harris said.
"They [Officeworks] concentrate on consumables and the first-time SOHO buyer, whereas we are more focused on the second-time SOHO buyer, small-to-medium business, departmental and corporate, and government.
"Just the presence of Coles Myer behind us would suggest we will see a lot more medium, corporate, and government business as well as more of the computer-aware customers we already have."
The lure of the Sydney-based retailer's ready-made catalogue business, customer base, call centre facilities and reported $500,000 of e-commerce sales in February was too good to resist as a queue of international and local organisations threw their hats into the buyout ring.
On future plans for the business, Harris said: "There will be other Harris Technology shops opening around the country and we will have a presence in many other Coles Myer stores like Grace Bros and Kmart to take orders and give advice."
"The nature of the Internet means that our store is available anywhere in Australia where a connection to the Internet can be accessed, so the potential is unlimited," Harris added.
"We are going to continue with the formula that has made us successful - the customer-service ethic and intelligent computer-ware consulting.
"Customer service will continue to be the key focus and I think if we do that and spread it, we will pick up more business now that we have the weight of Coles Myer behind us."