Harvey Norman has launched two initiatives aimed at reaching out to segments of the buying public it currently doesn't service.
The first is Harvey Norman Computer Training, a program which sees Harvey Norman providing free home-based installation and training to PC buyers.
The second is the launch of a feature-packed Harvey Norman brand PC, designed to target the likes of Dell and Gateway 2000.
Harvey Norman group computer controller Tony Gattari said that while Harvey Norman has been successful with its $1499 PC, it has traditionally missed the market with regard to high-end machines. He attributes this to the slowness of vendors to incorporate the latest processors into their consumer PCs.
"When Intel decides to produce a new chip, they don't usually introduce it into the Australian marketplace in retail quickly enough. Dell and Gateway in particular are able to produce it, because they do local builds, and are able to produce a Pentium II 266MHz to the marketplace very early."
To combat this problem Harvey Norman will introduce a Pentium II 233MHz machine. Both it and the low-end PC have now been re-branded as the Harvey Norman Signature range. "So I'm using my own house brand to cover the gaps," said Gattari. "One was the gap with the low-end budget buster, now it's the high-speed machine at a very good price which is the latest and greatest technology."
As for home training, Gattari says the initiative has been designed to target another sector of the market - self confessed techno-phobes who know they need a computer but are not confident about setting one up and operating it.
"We've found that a lot of customers are very reluctant to purchase a PC, because of the fact that they are still grappling with the technology, and would love somebody to hold their hand," Gattari said.
And we feel that by helping people, the people will feel warm and good about Harvey Norman, and hopefully they'll come and buy software and printers from us, because they're a more experienced user."
Gattari believes the returns will be long term, conceding the cost of the program is making a substantial dent in its margin.
"It's costing us a bit, but the way we figure it is hopefully we will recover that money, and more, by the extra sales and the goodwill that it generates with the customer.
To qualify, buyers merely need to purchase any one of Harvey Norman's 32 PCs and notebooks (except the $1499 home brand model). They then receive a voucher that enables them to call a 1800 number and arrange for a technician to come to their home at their own convenience, be that weekends or evenings.
The offer is valid for purchasers living within 30km of a Harvey Norman store, otherwise a charge of $10 per 10km applies.
The program has gone on trial in Sydney and Erina stores only, supported by TV, radio and press advertising. After three months Harvey Norman will decide whether to roll it nationally.