Harris Scarfe refocuses offer with new format

HS1As Australia’s department store sector struggles to find its feet in the new world of retail Harris Scarfe is reinvigorating its fleet.

While not being known for the high street glitz and glimmer associated with Myer or David Jones, the Steinhoff owned department store has been quietly at work charting its own future recently, expanding a new format that’s designed to provide an answer to the woes facing the category.

The business launched a renovated store in Hobart’s Cat & Fiddle arcade complex over the weekend to implement a new customer-first merchandising strategy and significantly downsize its footprint to 3,500sqm.

General manager of marketing Simon Burrett said the difference between the old and new format is stark, with a brighter atmosphere, wider aisles and re-worked visual merchandising.

“We’ve taken a real customer focused perspective on how the layout should run, how wide the aisles should be and how bright it should be,” he said.

The store is one of several new formats emerging within Harris Scarfe’s fleet of 65 locations across the country, homing in on a focused range that ticks boxes in its strongest categories such as homewares, manchester and apparel.

HS2Moving forward the business believes the 2,500sqm – 3,500sqm range is a sweet spot that will maximise performance while allowing it to showcase exclusive brands like Shaynna Blaze and Vera Vera Wang.

“The feedback we get from our customers is that [the smaller footprint] gives them a really shoppable, easy to navigate and convenient size that allows us to get a really comprehensive offer in,” Burrett said.

Harris Scarfe is not the first Australian department store to consider refocusing its offer by decreasing store size as changing retail dynamics force a re-think among discretionary retailers.

ABS retail turnover data for April released on Monday was less-than positive for department stores, with turnover declining 0.9 per cent.

But while market conditions remain challenging Harris Scarfe is doubling down on its traditional customer base and hoping to maintain leadership in niche categories such as quilts.

“We’re very clear about the customer that we’re looking for or that we’re servicing – it’s a customer that appreciates our branded offer, and it’s a customer who understands how we work in terms of our hi-lo pricing,” Burrett said.

“That customer may not be as young as others go for, but they’re a customer who is experienced enough to understand the value of quality of a brand in delivering what they want.”

Unlike Myer or David Jones Harris Scarfe isn’t exposed to the highly promotional cosmetics category and instead trades more heavily in bed, bath and home products, as well as sporting apparel.

Its strength in the bedroom has prompted a re-think in visual merchandising, which has been a focus for improvement over the last year.

New product education points have been installed throughout the renovated Hobart store to provide product advice and suggestions to customers.

Product adjacencies have also been re-worked to improve ease of shopping.

While Harris Scarfe has most of its portfolio in Victoria and NSW, Tasmania and South Australia are increasingly important markets for its target demographic – with five stores now trading in down south and another in development.


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