A multi-million-dollar investment in Cairns by an Australian retail giant sends a positive message about the city’s long-term potential.
Showing renewed confidence in the city, Harvey Norman is currently spending $12 million on a major redevelopment and expansion of its Portsmith showroom as well as façade renovations and parking lot upgrade to the entire site.
“We think Cairns is a very strong growth area in Australia and has wonderful long-term potential,” says Gerry Harvey, Executive Chairman and Co-Founder of retail chain Harvey Norman. “We pick out certain areas where we think there’s greater potential for what we’re doing. If we don’t think it’s worth spending the money, then we won’t.”
Stage one of the project is complete with the expansion and remodelling of the bedding section and the parking lot upgrade. The furniture department is next, followed by the electrical section, which will include a new kitchen and bathroom area and an expanded computer department. When completed towards the end of the year, the showroom will have an extra 2,090sq m of floor space.
The project also includes a complete façade renovation for the Cairns Homemaker Centre site, wheelchair access from its Spence Street site, warehouse and dock expansions and a designer café area.
“When finished, it’s going to be the best-looking Harvey Norman in Queensland,” says Mr Harvey.
Tammy Garratt is the franchisee of the bedding section, while Andrew Garbett has the computer section, David McKell the furniture department and Bruce Foster in the electronics division.
“Every section has had a lot growth in the last three years,” says Tammy, whose bedding department includes the addition of an extra 500sq m of floor space. Where once she displayed 30 ensembles, now she has 70, including a new range of prestige bedding and furnishings. “We’re all very keen and knowledgeable about our products.
“Now that the bedding renovations and expansion are complete, I would say this would have to be the biggest bedding store in Far North Queensland.”
Mr Harvey says the Harvey Norman Cairns store, which now has approximately 80 employees first opened in Cairns at Raintrees Shopping Centre 25 years ago before moving to its current site and purchasing the building. By then Harvey Norman was well on its way to success.
“Harvey Norman has been going now since 1961 when we first opened, so it’s been a long history of growing Harvey Norman into one of the best retailers in the world,” says Mr Harvey, who co-founded the chain with Ian Norman. “We have 20,000 people working for us in eight different countries under our three brands – Harvey Norman, Domayne and Joyce Mayne.
“Our ambition is to just keep growing.”
Harvey Norman joined the online retail business in 2011.
“My advice to retailers is you have to have both – your retail business and your online business,” Mr Harvey says. “We’re a very big online retailer ourselves and have been doing that for a very long time. Some products however, like furniture, represent very little sales online.”
Mr Harvey says he will be returning to Cairns when the renovations and expansion are complete.
“I’ve been to Cairns many, many times,” he says. “I first came there when I was a 20-year old, 60 years ago. I’ve visited all the islands, been game fishing and been up to Port Douglas. It’s a beautiful place.”