Harvey raking in cash from panic-buyers
Billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey has dismissed concerns about the coronavirus crisis in Australia while claiming he has been doing a roaring trade over recent weeks.
As the country moves to level one shut downs of venues in which gatherings take place and the two most populous states flag the closure of non-essential services amid the worsening pandemic, the Harvey Norman boss appeared in a special edition of 60 Minutes alongside health experts and other business leaders.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison also appeared in the program, urging everyone to take the crisis seriously and do their part to slow the rapid spread of coronavirus.
"Why are we so scared about getting this virus?" Mr Harvey told the Channel 9 show.
"There's pretty much nothing to get scared of. It's not the Spanish Flu that killed 15 million people just after the First World War … I'm 80, I should be really scared. Guess what? I'm not really scared."
Mr Harvey was pleased to note revenue across his national chain of electronics stores up sharply amid huge consumer demand in recent weeks.
"You know, this is an opportunity," he said.
"Our sales are up in Harvey Norman in Australia by nine per cent on last year. Our sales in freezers are up 300 per cent. And what about air purifiers? Up 100 per cent."
Source - World Health Organization, Johns Hopkins, other media
A number of businesses have experienced soaring sales since coronavirus panic began to spread, with Woolworths and Coles experiencing significant stock shortages across the country.
The supermarket giants couldn't get stock back on to shelves quick enough and appealed with their customers to exercise calm and restraint.
Panic-buying has also sparked ugly scenes of violence in the aisles, with police arresting several people in a number of states for brawls over toilet paper.
Confirmed cases of coronavirus in Australia continue to double every three to four days and health experts warn the strain on the hospital system will be severe if there isn't a slowdown in new infections.
New South Wales and Victoria on Sunday announced a shutdown of all non-essential services within the coming 48 hours, meaning everything but the bare necessities - supermarkets, pharmacies, healthcare facilities - must close.
Schools in Victoria will have their Easter holidays brought forward to Tuesday while NSW authorities are expected to decide about schools tomorrow.
"But to me, I've got to be positive," Mr Harvey said. "I've got to 80 years of age, I've had a wonderful life and I think to myself, I'm just going to keep going as if nothing's happened.
"I've got to be optimistic. What am I gonna get out of bed every day for and worry about what's going to happen?"
The elderly are most at risk to coronavirus, with an estimated 15 per cent of people aged 80 and over who contract the disease likely to die as a result.
Originally published as Harvey raking in cash from panic-buyers