By Claire Reilly
Harvey Norman Ireland is conducted a major reshuffle of its store network with at least one store to close, and three shopfronts to be “reformatted”, the Irish Independent newspaper reports. While the reshuffle will see the creation of new positions in the company, as many as 85 jobs are at risk.
The Harvey Norman Ireland network includes 14 stores in the Republic of Ireland as well as 2 stores in Northern Ireland.
Harvey Norman CEO Blaine Callard said Harvey Norman’s Mullingar store (located 70 kilometres north-west of Dublin) was no longer a profitable business for the retailer.
“While the closure of any store is naturally regrettable, it was simply not economic for the Mullingar outlet to continue in operation,” said Callard. “The company could no longer ignore the simple facts that the store in question was not trading at a level that justified continuing investment.”
The Mullingar store reportedly employs 45 staff members whose jobs may be on the line due to the closure. In addition, both Northern Ireland stores will be reformatted in the restructure as well as the retailer’s Dundalk Outlet (on the north-east border of the Republic of Ireland).
The Dundalk Democrat newspaper reported that the Dundalk and Northern Ireland stores will now “focus on furniture and bedding”.
As part of the reshuffle, Harvey Norman also plans to open a new store in Blanchardstown on the outskirts of Dublin, creating 14 new full-time jobs, while 18 additional roles will be created across the whole Irish network, including four staff who will be responsible for the launch of Harvey Norman online.
“Our move into online is about giving our customers convenience and choice about how they buy from us - it is all part of our Omni channel strategy,” said Callard.
Harvey Norman’s Australian office has been contacted for comment on the restructure.
In April this year, Harvey Norman Ireland reported a pre-tax loss of €23.3 million for the year ended 30 June 2011, "due to the continuing difficult retail trading environment caused by tough economic conditions and continued lack of consumer confidence".
At the time, Blaine Callard said the company's committment to the Irish market would "not change", despite the poor performance.
“Strong roots have been established in the Irish market,” he then said. “The Harvey Norman brand continues to strengthen in Ireland...and is committed to Ireland for the long term.
“The directors’ key focus going forward is on ensuring that the group takes measures to deal with the continuing recessionary environment, and to focus on continuing to grow market share whilst reducing and controlling costs throughout the business.
“Predicting the Irish economy is very difficult, but we are encouraged that even in difficult times we can achieve loss reduction and revenue growth,” said Callard. “When the economy bottoms out and returns even to some modest growth, we'll be here, and we'll be profitable.”