Tasmania's independent retailing channel is feeling the blow-torch of Harvey Norman's national juggernaut since its acquisition of state retailer Loughran's Living stores last year, sparking accusations of underhand tactics.
Spearheading Harvey Norman's campaign is the Hobart superstore, which is at the centre of allegations brought forward by local competing retailer Discom.
ARN sources said management and staff at Harvey Norman's Hobart superstore began telling its customers and suppliers earlier this year that Discom had ceased trading or was "about to close".
In a letter sent by Discom's solicitors, the retailer demanded Harvey Norman "refrain from spreading such vicious and damaging rumours forthwith", stressing the legal ramifications of giving false and misleading information.
Harvey Norman's proprieter, Neil Molloy, replied in a letter apologising on behalf of his staff, whom he claims were misled by a shared supplier who provided the information to them. "I am happy to confirm that I have demanded that my sales staff refrain from indicating that your client's business is 'closed' or 'about to close'," Molloy said in the letter.
HN Hobart's second-in-command, Paul Nash, said: "We were given that information by several suppliers" but when asked, he "couldn't remember" which distributors they were. "They were suppliers we stopped using a while ago," he conceded.
Gabrielle Lucas, managing director of Discom, said: "I despise anyone using underhand tatics because when all is said and done, all it effectively does is show a total lack of professionalism and work ethics.
"Hobart is too small to start rumours like that and not have people hear them. Harvey Norman wants everything for itself," she added.
Previously the largest independent software outlet in Tasmania, Discom has been forced to significantly cut back on the range of gaming software it used to stock. "That's thanks to Harvey Norman - it's just not worth carrying it anymore," Lucas said.
As the Harvey Norman retail machine rolls on in the Apple Isle, several businesses have also been forced to shut up shop, according to a number of Tasmanian retailers contacted by ARN.
Meanwhile, Molloy claims that the arrival of Harvey Norman in Tasmania will stimulate growth rather than crowd the marketplace. "It's happened in every city we've gone into," he said.
Molloy believes Tasmanian retailers should be "licking their lips", providing they are willing to adapt their business and "ride on our coat-tails".
He did, however, fire off a warning that is sure to keep some competition awake at night. "If you're a crap retailer, we'll close you," he said.
HP's Nash was more diplomatic in his approach. "Our attitude, and the policy of Harvey Norman, is that there is room for everyone," he said. "We're not there to run people out of business."