Cheapie Gerry? Harvey Norman Eyes Up Big Bargains
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Cheap by name, cheap by nature: Gerry Harvey’s venture into online bargains, BigBuys, was set up for a cut price, but will it reap the big rewards hoped for?

Click to enlarge, the fledgling online deals site, was set up for just $500,000 with six staff working the site, competing with the likes of Catch of the Day and OO. 

However, the difference is Big Buys has stuck to just household goods and cosmetics, so far. 

Set up to the surprise (and amusement) of many in April, given Chairman Gerry Harvey’s previous aversion to online selling, the bric-a- brac site has experienced “real success”, according to Kaine Escott, who heads up the new site. 

The move into e-deals world and the non electronics formula, could mark a significant new stream of profitability to the retailer, if Escott is to be believed, particularly welcome in light of the ongoing gloomy bricks and mortar retail environment.

And, at the least, it shows Chairman Gerry Harvey’s enormous web epiphany, from previously uttering there wasn’t a penny to be made from the online game, with bosses there now saying Big Buys could break even within a year. 

“We spent less than half a million to set up the whole thing. We hope to break even within 12 months,” Escott said in a recent interview. 

Best’s biggest seller? Dove beauty bars ($40 for 48), as well as health and beauty, toys, groceries and camping gear.  

The best buy categories were specifically selected by Mr Harvey, Escott also revealed, in order to avoid competition with his franchise retail stores. This possibly means electronics is firmly off the menu ad infinitum, in order to avoid the ire of his franchisees.

But it looks like there could be method in Harvey’s madness: Finish dishwasher tablets, Omo laundry powder and socks, razors are among the top sellouts. 

And it looks like profitability could also be on the horizon very soon. “After four months since we launched we’re having some real success . . . we’ve had some products that have sold out in big numbers,” he said.  

Today, it is selling Elizabeth Arden beauty set for $49 but has shied away from flogging HN staples like TVs, iPods or even DVDs. 

The site has 4,643 Facebook ‘likes’ and is immersed in the Twitterspere and has RSS feed and 15,000 subscribers to date.

The Catch of The Day boss, one of its main e-rivals and the self proclaimed “No 1 online department store in Australia”  flogging similar household goods, previous sniffed at Harvey’s move online, castigating his lack of understanding off the online world, and still maintains the threat posed by Big Buys is minimal. 


“(Gerry Harvey is) a late entrant into online retailing and his anti-online stance and lack of understanding as to how to run an e-commerce business does cast a shadow on the ongoing viability of the site,” its founder Gabby Leibovich said in April. 

Catch has over 800,000 subscribers and one particular successful week, sold an item every six seconds. 

And although Harvey is a new entrant and has a long way to Catch up, he just may have caught on in time.