Harvey Norman: All about creating an environment

Harvey Norman ventured into the convergence market late last year, opening a technology store in the Sydney CBD.

The mass merchant had already trialled an “Express” concept store earlier in 2003 in the Sydney retail hub of Chatswood. The success of this concept store, combined with high consumer demand for converging technologies, encouraged the retailer to consider a new retail strategy for the Sydney CBD.

Whereas the Express store focused on fast-moving IT items, the new technology store in Sydney’s MLC centre focuses on convergent technologies such as plasma screens, mp3 players and projectors.

“We used to have two completely separate areas in our stores — our Audio-Visual products which dealt with such things as sound and vision, and our IT area which covered technology and mobility, operating systems and PCs. But now there is a myriad of product where our services are coming together,” general manager of computing and communications for Harvey Norman, John Slacksmith, said.

“We see the most important part of these new stores as being the opportunity to create an environment and a solution — an experience — to customers,” he said. “For instance, a media PC can’t just be bought and taken home. It needs to be demonstrated. The setting inside should represent the digital home experience. The MLC store is the first step towards this.”

Slacksmith said the mass merchant was watching with interest the developments around Microsoft’s Media Centre software (released only in the US so far) and the Sony PSX console (Japan-only).

“Hopefully both these products will be available in Australia in 2004,” he said. He expects these kinds of products to continue to drive consumer demand for converging technologies.