Harris Scarfe department chain enters receivership in horror year for retailers

Department store chain Harris Scarfe has become the latest casualty of the flagging retail sector after being placed into receivership.

The $380 million chain has 66 stores across the country from Top Ryde in Sydney’s northern suburbs, Westfield Chermside and Carindale in Brisbane, Canberra, Wagga Wagga down to Geelong in Victoria, Adelaide and Hobart.

Harris Scarfe has gone into receivership less than a month after a deal to sell the chain to Allegro Funds.
Harris Scarfe has gone into receivership less than a month after a deal to sell the chain to Allegro Funds.Credit:AFR

Harris Scarfe employs more than 1800 staff and says the appointment of DRS partners Vaughan Strawbridge, Kathryn Evans and Tim Norman was made by an unnamed secured lender to the group.

While the stores will remain fully operational and staff will be paid by the receivers, a sale process of the business will now commence.


Harris Scarfe is a longstanding retail institution.

DRS partners Vaughan Strawbridge

Harris Scarfe is a long-running chain that sells everything from bed linen to, kitchenware, homewares, electrical appliances, and apparel. It is aimed a more discount end of the market as opposed to the middle ring Myer and the upmarket David Jones demographic.

The main competitors are Kmart and BigW which have also had to reinvent the business in order to survive.

“Harris Scarfe is a longstanding retail institution. We will be making every effort to secure a future for the business and intend to commence an immediate sale of business process,” Mr Strawbridge said.

The DRS partners confirmed gift cards and lay-by deposits will be honoured.

Horror year

Harris Scarfe’s receivership is the latest in a string of retail failures this year as sluggish economic growth and the rise of online shopping takes its toll.

In January this year the high profile Ed Harris and sportswear group Skins hit the wall followed by make-up king Napolean Perdis, the footwear group Shoes of Prey, Melbourne-based institution Dimmeys is shutting its doors and the Co-Op Bookshop went into administration last month.

Bill Rooney, the chief executive of 6one5 Retail Consulting Group, a retail strategy consultancy & digital training business, said the retailers that don’t adapt to the changing demographics of the shopping population will perish.

He said generational change will have a dramatic impact on all areas of retail and is contributing more than most retail executives & commentators realise to the disruption in the industry.

Mr Rooney’s research shows that the biggest winners will be retailers selling to Gen Z where the Gen Z working population will expand by 84 per cent over six years or 14 per cent per annum. This is great for start-ups and retailers tapped into this generation.

The biggest losers are retailers selling to the 40 years and over market where the working population will decline by 20 per cent over 6 years or 3.33 per cent per annum from 2019 levels. That is 1.45 million less people to sell to over 40 years of age in 2019.

“No matter how good you are as a retailer, in 2019 the 40 years and older market is in serious decline and only a major change of strategy and direction will arrest the decline,” Mr Rooney said.

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Source: Thanks smh.com