Harvey Norman on expansion drive

Harvey Norman Asia managing director Kenneth Aruldoss

PETALING JAYA: Harvey Norman Malaysia is expanding the number of stores it operates in the country post the movement control order (MCO) period, with three more new stores planned by the end of this year.

Harvey Norman Asia managing director Kenneth Aruldoss told StarBiz that the stores would be in the Klang Valley.

Currently, Harvey Norman has 23 stores. The lifestyle retailer, specialising in electrical, computers, furniture and bedding, aims to have more than 50 stores in Malaysia by the end of 2023 subject to the pace of opening of new shopping malls and the situation of the economy post the Covid-19 pandemic.

Aruldoss said Harvey Norman conducts feasibility studies including demographics when deciding on the location of its stores.

“Similar to most companies, Covid-19 has hit us like a sledgehammer but it is only temporary, ” he said.

Aruldoss said Harvey Norman has been working with the shopping malls on potential sites for the new stores.

While the Harvey Norman stores are crowd-pullers, he said dealing with established landlords of shopping malls was also critical in the success of the stores.

“The big brands (in shopping malls) know how to run a mall and that is why we work with them, ” he said.

Malaysia is a strong market for the Australia-listed company as the overall sales were higher in its latest reporting period on the strength of more stores being opened.

All Harvey Norman stores in Malaysia are now open, and Aruldoss said business was tough during the MCO period but there were grounds for optimism.

One of Harvey Norman’s key strengths is being customer-centric, on top of offering one of the biggest range of home electronics, computers and furnishing products.

This allows them to capitalise on the impending vacuum from store closures by its competitors, especially the smaller players.

The provision of well-trained staff to help customers with their purchase decisions has been an attraction for those who visit its stores.

Another is its promise to match the lowest selling price for the goods it sells with a money back guarantee on the price difference.

Employees are important to Harvey Norman, hence there were no layoffs as a result of the MCO.

Aruldoss said: “We believe in taking good care as well as empowering our people. Happy staff improve efficiency, resulting in happy customers”.

Harvey Norman has about 1,000 employees in the country.

Aruldoss said sales of computers surged post the MCO period and he was expecting a pick-up in buying activity to continue as it is a penchant for Asians to shop.

“The middle class is growing and Asians do love shopping.

“We have a comprehensive range of goods, complemented by great shopping ambience and attractive price points. We think we have the key ingredients to help us stay resilient, being in the business of selling essentials, ” he said.

He felt the pie, in terms of the number of players, would shrink and that would give Harvey Norman an opportunity to increase its market share in the country.

“Our cashflow is strong and we are in a good position. We have gained market share in every category, ” he said.

Aruldoss said the pandemic has given Harvey Norman new ideas to improve and capitalise on its omnichannel approach and invest in technologies to better serve the customers seamlessly online and offline.

It will continue to put emphasis on its physical stores to attract buyers who need to have a look and feel before buying the goods.

“The MCO has taught us that physical stores are super critical, ” he said.

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