A strong Aussie dollar and the significant savings on offer from buying offshore have meant that more consumers are now turning online for their retail fix. This trend is especially prevalent among gamers, where local prices of new releases are often almost twice those of overseas markets. Retail figurehead and Harvey Norman director Gerry Harvey has been a long-time opponent of foreign retailers shipping products to Australia, using the tactic to avoiding paying local Goods and Services Tax. Today he backflipped on the issue, announcing a new game import website, that will do exactly what he has long despised.
Dubbed Harvey Norman Direct Import, the online store will operate out of the Republic of Ireland and ship games to Australia. At launch, the website will only stock interactive entertainment, but in a conference call, Gerry Harvey hinted that video games are just the beginning, with plans to expand into other goods. He said, "We have to start somewhere, and it's a nice place to start."
The Australian retailer blamed consumer demand for cheaper products as the reason for its change of heart, citing the high wholesale price of local games as forcing its hand to compete with overseas sellers.
In response to a question asked regarding Harvey Norman Direct Import's ability to compete with existing online game retailers, Harvey Norman spokesperson Ben Mackintosh said that the site plans to "bring legitimacy to [gray import]."
The company conceded that Harvey Norman has not traditionally been a strong player in the Australian video games category but hopes to change its place by offering cheap overseas stock. "We should in theory get 100 percent market share," said Harvey.
Harvey Norman Direct Import went live briefly this afternoon but was taken down shortly after and is expected to go live properly this evening. You can look at the Harvey Norman Direct Import site from 6:00 p.m. tonight.