Harvey's Eastmead hits consulting trail

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.

And despite HN boss Gerry Harvey's continued mockery of the Internet, 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 Internet. Gerry has a very one dimensional view of the Internet."

In an honest appraisal of Harvey Norman Online, Eastmead said it has a very low visitor/buyer conversion rate. "It was insignificant business." But on the upside, he reports customers often check out pricing online before taking the information into a store.

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

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

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

Eastmead feels that after so many years in retail and more recently e-tail, he has something to offer. "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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