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Harvey Norman warms to etail

Gerry's 'heart beats strongly' at the thought of digital pennies

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Australian retail Luddite Gerry Harvey has reversed his anti etailing stance, and has announced that he will launch an online retail store.

Harvey had previously been a key agitator against online retailing, leading bigger retailers to lobby the government to enforce Australia's 10 per cent goods and services tax (GST) on all online purchases. At the moment, purchases below A$1,000 slip through the GST net.

In January, Harvey appealed to Australians' patriotism to pay more for local goods rather than shift retail revenue overseas.

"You might have to pay more, but it's the right thing to do. You'll pay a lot more if we lose jobs and retailers close down," he said.

Now, the retail giant will launch its own branded online store. Harvey said that while he enjoyed a reputation as being a retail "pace-setter", the competitive retail sector meant that he didn't have a choice and that "I've got to cannibalise our stores."

He added that within a year Harvey Norman would have "a sizeable internet presence".

"My heart's beating very strongly on whether we make any money out of it," Harvey said.

Recent analysis from Forrester Research forecasts that sales from the Australian online retail market will surge to A$33bn by 2015 from A$16.9bn last year.

Local retailer Myer, which is also lobbying the government on the GST charges, also backflipped this month, launching an offshore online store presence in China called myfind.com which allows Australian customers to shop GST-free. ®

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