Harvey's Eastmead hits consulting trail with no regrets

Harvey Norman Online's former proprietor, Richard Eastmead, is preparing to hit the consulting trail after an unsuccessful attempt to revolutionise the retailer's approach to e-tailing.

Despite HN boss Gerry Harvey's continued mockery of online services he's not bitter.

"Gerry and I actually agree on a lot of stuff regarding the Internet," Eastmead said, citing the hype surrounding many e-tailers as an example.

"But he and I disagree on what the current opportunities are for the Net. Gerry has a very one dimensional view of [it]."

He agrees with Harvey's sentiments that online [retail stores] can be viewed as nothing more than an online catalogues, but stated "it's what you do with it" that counts.

In an honest appraisal of Harvey Norman Online, Eastmead said it has a very low visitor-to-buyer conversion rate, describing it as an "insignificant business". But on the upside, he reported that customers often checked out pricing online before taking the information into a store.

As for Harvey's recent comments to ARN that any "$35K per year kid" could run Harvey Norman Online, Eastmead considers them water off a duck's back. "I didn't take that personally," he said.

Eastmead is currently nursing a broken shoulder after a skiing accident, but told ARN he has already had calls from business contacts regarding possible work. But he was cautious of the impact of leaving Harvey Norman. "It's like coming out of a marriage, you don't really want to hop straight back into another relationship," he said.

Meanwhile, when asked if he would pursue a similar career path as fellow ex-HN friend Tony Gattari into e-tail or even Gattari's smartbuy.com.au operation, he replied, "I don't think so".

Eastmead feels that after so many years in retail and more recently e-tail, he has something to offer online services. "I think there is such a lack of understanding of what the Internet's about," he said. "Dot-com's need to focus on developing real business plans. We're not a mail-order country."

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