January 05, 2011 | Graham

Please phone me Gerry Harvey

Maybe they are targetting the only demographic sympathetic to their cause, but amazingly the retailers campaigning for GST to be applied to overseas online purchases are running their campaign exclusively in the print media at the moment.

While they do have plans to potentially take it to TV, the only way they are getting on the net at the moment is tangentially via news sites.

You have to wonder how seriously they are taking the campaign when the total budget is a measly $200,000, and doesn’t even stretch to a Facebook page or a Twitter account.

They appear to be repeating the mistakes of the recording industry. Instead of competing on the Internet with the newcomers they are trying to roll marbles under their feet. They’ll run out of marbles pretty quickly and they’ll find that their competitors are pretty fleet, even over marbles.

A better way to spend the $200,000 would be to set up an online shop using an offshore subsidiary – yes, they could build one for that, or less – as they have threatened.

It’s the small retailers who will suffer from the Internet, not the large ones. Companies like Harvey Norman and David Jones should have email addresses of millions of customers as well as in-store and out-store cross-promotional opportunities, and  the off-shore purchasing power to match overseas online competitors.

If online retailing is going to grow as the retailers are forecasting they have nothing to lose by being in there fast, whether or not they are successful with their campaign against the GST.

I’ve been thinking about all of this because I was looking to commission an article from them defending their position. They’ve got a good case to put about the GST, although the one on employment doesn’t take account of economic experience post about 1700. But do you think I can find a contact point, given that I don’t have a copy of yesterday’s paper with me and the online version isn’t running their ad?

So Gerry Harvey, if anyone in your office has a Google alert on your name, you or your PR person might give me a call on 0411 104 801. Not only would we be happy to run your copy, but we could help you out with an Internet strategy for the campaign, as well as your online retailing – all proceeds to go to support online independent publishing, a cause as worthy as domestic retailing.

Posted by Graham at 3:03 am | Comments (14) |
Filed under: Uncategorized


  1. But Bob Brown thinks their campaign makes good economic sense.

    Comment by Terry — January 5, 2011 @ 4:38 am

  2. I remember Gerry Harvey boasting for years how he only had 1 person working on his website. They have been really lazy online and their 90’s business model of getting ‘brands’ to pay him to setup in his shop is over. They haven’t been servicing customers online. In the US people use Amazon beacause of quick delivery and range. They don’t need to shop direct via China… (like I do :-)).

    Comment by joe — January 5, 2011 @ 4:57 am

  3. Nice one Graham! This short sighted campaign has certainly been smashed in the media today!!!! Eeedgits!!!

    Comment by Phil — January 5, 2011 @ 7:52 am

  4. I think the retailers have got a point Phil, but I was flabbergasted that they have broken all the rules of modern communications. I, and so many others in my profession, go to the Internet first. I don’t even keep a phone book these days.

    And they will get blasted if they can’t put their point across better than this.

    They’re getting bad advice, which is ridiculous when there is so much good advice waiting around happy to tell them what to do. They’d even get a lot of it for free, the Internet being what it is.

    Comment by Graham Young — January 5, 2011 @ 7:56 pm

  5. The online websites of most of the major stores are absolutely *pathetic*. I have kids, so if possible, I prefer to buy online rather than risk the shopping centre. Why don’t these stores improve their online presence?! Half the time, the websites of these stores disclose only a few products and a PDF of the latest brochure. I guess they want to force you to come into their store. Maybe they need to rethink their strategy?

    A failure to use the Internet to spread their message just shows the short-sightedness of these stores.

    Comment by Legal Eagle — January 5, 2011 @ 11:57 pm

  6. Australian retailers might be well advised to spruce up their websites. Too many have just a home page and little else – nothing like a comprehensive on line catalogue WITH PRICES, as so many U.S. sites have.

    For me the advantages of using an overseas supplier are:
    1. comprehensive website with prices, accurate estimate of shipping costs and excellent search engines.
    2. prompt service. Stuff ordered in the evening our time is generally on its way by the time I get up the following morning. Further, stuff ordered from California is often here, through Customs and delivered within ten working days.
    3. I do not have to drive on our increasingly congested roads.
    4. With 3. (above) shopping online saves me costly petrol plus wear and tear on my car
    5. even with freight, prices are often only one third of what Australian resellers are charging
    6. Given point 5. (above) the lack of GST on overseas purchases is completely irrelevant to my shopping decisions.
    7. What I see on the website is what I will get. I purchased a motherboard from one of the whinging Australian retailers. I wanted a Gigabyte brand. The board I purchased was in a Gigabyte box. When I had problems with its settings and I examined it, I searched the internet using its model number, and found it was a cheap knock-off from an unknown Hong Kong manufacturer. So Mr. Whinge, if you want me to go into your shops, trade honestly.

    Comment by Kevin B. G. Luxford — January 6, 2011 @ 12:05 am

  7. Of course the conversation is happening online, but Australian retailers are so out of touch they don’t know it – my post about this (http://anzlitlovers.wordpress.com/2011/01/05/online-booksales-australian-retailers-and-the-gst/) is going viral!

    Comment by Lisa Hill — January 6, 2011 @ 12:55 am

  8. The big retailers have not been concerned for the previous workers in the manufacturing industry over the last thirty odd years. They destroy many industries, especially clothing. In return they offered us poorly made and little choice of clothing for years. The same ones doing the whining now pushed small businesses out of shopping centres. They destroyed the small fruitier and butchers wherever they could. Now we are supposed to feel sorry for them. The case for GST on overseas Internet buying is overblown. The consumer and Australian on-line business has found a way to beat them. All their protesting has done is to alert the public to how poorly they have been treated. At least this year there is more choice in the dress shops but little improvement in the quality. If you are over sixty, it is near impossible to buy anything with sleeves. I, for one hate shopping in stores, going from one to the next only to find the same goods. I have found on the Internet there is a marvelous world of choice and diversity at a much cheaper price than within our big retailers. I can sit before my computer and compare prices from all over the world. I can also compare the specifications of goods. This is important with our fast changing technology. Find it impossible to find this information in stores. I, personally like to support Australian online businesses but will buy from overseas if the product better meets my needs. When we purchase from overseas, we are buying from the same markets that big retailers use. Why can we individually and pay more expensive freight and still be so far in front. I expected because of the dollar and things being bad overseas, that the Boxing Day sales prices would have been lower. I do not mind paying GST on overseas goods but the cost of the government collecting this GST would be more than the receipts they receive. What has happened is the playing field has become more level and the big boys do not like it.

    Comment by Catching up — January 6, 2011 @ 1:38 am

  9. Another couple of thoughts:
    1. The people who are complaining about GST not being levied on small overseas purchases were also the ones moaning about the imposition of the GST in the first place. These captains of industry, so loudly proclaiming laissez faire capitalism principles when the economy is shining upon them, yet are quick to run to the (socialist) government to dig them out of the clag when things are not so good. Is this a case of privatising the profits while socialising the losses?
    2. I suppose we ought to be grateful to them at least for providing employment for so many overseas students from various parts of Asia (including one of my ex students who gained a first class honours degree – which no doubt stands her in good stead when she serves the customers that come to her service desk) otherwise perhaps many would not be gainfully employed.

    Comment by Kevin B. G. Luxford — January 6, 2011 @ 4:17 am

  10. Very few will spend money on OS products whereby they have no recourse of guarantee if the product fails.

    There has to be a discount for risk and let those who want to pay less take it.

    Comment by Ross — January 7, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

  11. […] Graham Young at Ambit Gambit argued that the whole campaign was flawed by its lack of grasp of technology: You have to wonder how seriously they are taking the campaign when the total budget is a measly $200,000, and doesn’t even stretch to a Facebook page or a Twitter account. […]

    Pingback by Skepticlawyer » GST and online sales — January 8, 2011 @ 12:24 am

  12. In part, retailers like Gerry Harvey have themselves to blame for the public’s reaction to their gst rant
    However, that reaction includes a lot of anger and spleen which is unwarranted. There is also a lot of “moral high ground” which is unjustified.

    Some simple points being missed are:

    1: Online (especially overseas) retailers, while they offer cheaper goods and the convenience of online shopping (I use Amazon a lot for buying books) do little to contribute to the Australian economy. If we all did all of our shopping online overseas, it could wipe out the entire retail industry in Australia! So much for people who have jobs in the retail sector.

    Also, since we pay gst on other services, I can see no reason why gst is not collected here.

    2: People seem to forget that the likes of Gerry Harvey can readily move further into online shopping with online catalogues, and/or can set up online shopping operations in Asia. This makes nonsense of much of the spleen and may stimulate Australian retailers to move more quickly into online operations. Moreover, we have now been warned of this possibility and should not object to more retailers doing this.

    With regard to the media’s reaction, singing the same song as the public, I cannot but help point out a contradiction. Sales of newspapers have been declining over recent decades and more advertising (jobs, cars, real estate, etc.) has been moving online. In the meantime, journalists complain about their plight. Well, look at the writing on the wall and don’t complain about the advances of new technology. Already, many people (including myself) get all of their news online and do not buy physical newspapers.

    Comment by Geoff Alford — January 9, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  13. I believe that the National Broad Band which the govt wants to implement in Australia is ALL about consumers buying online via U$$A corporations who are already well versed in online shopping.
    While I support a more efficient internet system, and can appreciate that it will alter and make more efficient a whole range of areas, such as education, conference meetings, etc, I predict that it will also decimate many small retailers in Australia, via online advertising and retailing, broadcast to ipods, mobile phones and computers.
    I think that Harvey Norman also sees the future problem, but hasn’t handled the issue very well in putting it to the public.

    Comment by Barbara — February 5, 2011 @ 1:50 pm

  14. Barbara, I disagree. Most people I’ve seen commenting on this issue online have said (as I have) that they prefer to use Australian/NZ online sites, and have benefited from being able to access some very good products and service from them.

    It’s really about the business being willing to adapt to new technology. Some small businesses who don’t have enough customers locally have done very well out of offering their products online. Ebay even does that for the individual. Everyone has more reach and more choice.

    This means the big retailers no longer have an oligopoly, and will have to compete. I don’t see that as a bad thing.

    Incidentally, if you live in the country or you have difficulty getting around (like me), online choices make a huge difference. I can’t wait until we have online grocery shopping in my town!

    Comment by Clytie Siddall — February 8, 2011 @ 8:58 am

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