The $130 million Harvey Norman Centre is scheduled to be finished before August.
The $130 million Harvey Norman Centre is scheduled to be finished before August. Kari Bourne

Maroochy green light

DESPITE comments by billionaire retailer Gerry Harvey that no new Harvey Norman store would be opened in Australia this year, the company's Sunshine Coast project will go ahead.

Mr Harvey confirmed that the Harvey Norman Centre in Maroochydore will open.

Work on the huge $130 million project, in the new Maroochy Blvd precinct west of Sunshine Plaza Shopping Centre, is scheduled to be finished before August.

Mr Harvey, the Harvey Norman group CEO, told The Financial Review this week that the retailer had no plans to open a major new store in Australia in 2012, for the first time in its 30-year history.

He said yesterday that he was disheartened by present economic conditions.

"To be honest, if we were planning the Maroochydore project tomorrow, we wouldn't go ahead with it," he said. "But we are committed to it and we will."

Mr Harvey, speaking from the Magic Millions yearling sales on the Gold Coast, said that while the mining industry was doing "bloody well", retail and tourism were suffering badly.

"We are in a two-speed economy, and it's damned dispiriting," he said.

However, Mr Harvey admitted that business was cyclical.

"We've had good times for about 18, maybe 20, years, and we knew the downturn would come eventually.

"And the wheel will turn again."

However, Mr Harvey told the Financial Review that Harvey Norman planned to chase growth areas such as south-east Asia rather than put more money into struggling Australian stores.

Since Christmas, in particular, he has been scathing about competition from foreign online retailers.

Mr Harvey, with an auctioneer's hammer banging in the background, said he was selling horses at the sales yesterday.

"You should be down here buying them," he said.

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