When Harvey Norman first introduced its superstore concept in October 1993, it raised the bar for large-scale IT retail operations. Now the company plans to usher in a new era in retail shopping with a $50 million fit-out of a 190,000 square foot flagship store in the Sydney suburb of Auburn.
The new store will become the blueprint in interactive customer shopping for around 30 to 50 stores in the next five years, according to John Slack-Smith, general manager of Harvey Norman, computers and communications.
Besides a 500-spot car park and onsite café, the store's computer department is being touted as an industry first. More than 130 staff are being recruited and trained to work in the computer department, which will feature 13 giant plasma screens, 14 demonstration stands, four supplier concept shops including Toshiba, Hewlett-Packard and Packard Bell and 17 gaming displays.
"This showcase of technology will be constantly updated and staff continuously trained to enable us to provide cutting-edge technology solutions for our customers while educating them in the process," Slack-Smith said.
Harvey Norman views the investment as an indication to customers, suppliers and shareholders of how serious its computers and communications department is about creating a forum for customers to interact with technology.
"This new flagship store is the next step in the evolution of Harvey Norman," Slack-Smith said. "The design of this store is an amalgamation of the best displays and concepts from around the world and the look and feel of the store will define the future direction for all stores over the next five years."
The store is likely to first open its doors to customers in August, but its official opening is slated for the first week in September.
"We look continually at retailing trends worldwide and cultural changes in our markets and then someone like Gerry [Harvey] does his best to read the marketplace, the way people are living their lives, and then position his business to take advantage of these changes. That was very much the way this concept emerged," Slack-Smith said.