Harris Scarfe

Harris Scarfe

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Harris Scarfe
Department store
Industry Retail
Founded 1849 in South Australia
Founder George Peter Harris and John C. Lanyon
Headquarters Level 1, Building 8, 576 Swan St
Richmond, Melbourne
, Australia
Key people
Graham Dean (Managing Director - Pepkor South East Asia & CEO - Harris Scarfe), Louise Pillidge (Ambassador)
Products Homewares, Manchester, cookware, electrical goods, womenswear and menswear, intimate apparel and sleepwear, sporting and footwear, handbags and luggage, camping and outdoor
Owner Pepkor
Number of employees
Website http://www.harrisscarfe.com.au

Harris Scarfe is an Australian department store that was established in Adelaide, South Australia in 1849. It is owned by South African retail group Pepkor. As of September 2015, there were 54 Harris Scarfe stores in two formats: "Harris Scarfe" department stores and "HS Home" homewares stores.

The store has a positioning of brand led value, with hi-lo pricing. Key categories are kitchenware, Manchester, electrical goods, and apparel.

Harris Scarfe has expanded through organic growth, new store openings, mergers, and acquisitions. The current store network reflects this mix, in particular, the purchase or merging of regional or state based retail groups including Allens in New South Wales and FitzGerald's in Tasmania. The group is now owned by Pepkor, but has at times been subject to different ownership structures and a period of being in receivership.

The Rundle Place store on Rundle Mall, Adelaide has remained the business' main store and showcases a contemporary "look and feel" across two floors. Regional and suburban store layout varies significantly.

Harris Scarfe – Rundle Place 'flagship' store in Adelaide


Adelaide has been the location of a number of locally owned department stores and discount stores including John Martins, Peoplestores, Miller Anderson & Co., Cravens, Cox Foys, (which Harris Scarfe acquired and closed in 1977), Charles Birks (acquired by David Jones in 1954), Malcolm Reid, and Charles Moore and Co.. Harris Scarfe is the only remaining store group.


Harris Scarfe traces its history to 10 February 1849, when the founding partners, George Peter Harris and John C. Lanyon, arrived in Adelaide South Australia on the ship, "Candahar", to establish a hardware and ironmongery business. One of their first known advertisements in the local Adelaide paper was on 11 April 1850. Lanyon left the partnership on 22 February 1855 and returned to London, where he subsequently opened up a buying house for Geo. P Harris and other businesses in South Australia. This firm acted as the London house for many years. Additional partners, George Scarfe and Richard Smith, joined the business in 1866, on a hhandshake The deeds were drawn up on 10 July 1871.

Harris Scarfe grew to become a major supplier of a broad range of household, agricultural and industrial items. Geo. P Harris returned to England in 1873 where he died on 26 November that year, aged 52. George Scarfe continued on as chairman of the business until he died on 14 April 1903, aged 76. Their devotion to the business was such that the present company continues to carry the names of its founders.

Besides conducting its retailing business from its Adelaide premises, Harris Scarfe manufactured leather goods, including saddlery and luggage.

It also had a wholesaling operation, with a team of commercial travellers who visited country regions throughout South Australia. This business was supported with a promotional product catalogue, which became well known in country areas. During World War II, when the Australian Government enforced price controls, it used the Harris Scarfe catalogue as the price guide.

After World War II, Harris Scarfe's prosperity grew with South Australia, as it supplied building materials during the postwar building boom.


In 1971, Baradeen Quest Pty Limited, a subsidiary of Investment and Merchant Finance Corporation Limited ("IMFC") made a successful takeover bid for Harris Scarfe Limited, which at the time was a company listed on the Australian Stock Exchange.

The Rundle Street (now Rundle Mall) store continued trading, with expansion of its frontage to establish a new womenswear department.

Charles Davis Limited, a listed Tasmanian company controlled by Sir Donald Trescowthick, acquired control of Harris Scarfe in 1976, when Charles Davis took over IMFC. Trescowthick wished to acquire Harris Scarfe, and his research indicated that the cheapest way of doing so was to take over its parent company. The Trescowthick era started with growth and ended with collapse in 2001.

Trescowthick focussed Harris Scarfe's activities on its retailing business and disposed of all of its other activities. The Rundle Mall store continued to develop as a full line department store, while the industrial products outlet at Mile End evolved to become Harry's, a large hardware retailing business. The success of Harry's led Harris Scarfe's parent company, Charles Davis Limited, to acquire other hardware retailers, including Lloyd's in South Australia, Campbell's in Queensland, and McEwans in Victoria and New South Wales.


In 1989, these hardware businesses were sold in a management buyout.

The Rundle Mall department store continued to prosper, offering a broad range of items at "value for money" pricing, with aggressive advertising. Sales were facilitated by a range of purchase options, including an in-house credit card and lay-by. Harris Scarfe's business was heavily promoted, with press and television advertising, and colourful advertising catalogues. These catalogues were broadly distributed in the Sunday Mail newspaper. As a result, Harris Scarfe built a large phone and mail order business, supported by the advertising catalogues.


In the 1990s, Harris Scarfe began an era of unprecedented growth, both within South Australia and interstate. It expanded from its single large store in Rundle Mall into a smaller format for suburban and regional shopping centres (several of these stores were formerly occupied by the defunct Venture chain), as well as acquiring full-line department store sites from other retailers (including David Jones (Cairns, Townsville and Campbelltown NSW), John Martins (Elizabeth and Arndale), Myer (Colonnades), Centre Fair (Shepparton) and Stirlings (Albany, Bunbury and Geraldton)). This growth began from the company's base in South Australia and was aided by the demise of the Venture chain of stores previously found throughout the country. At Harris Scarfe's peak, the company operated 38 stores in all Australian States.

The company continued its aggressive expansion interstate, opening stores in New South Wales, Queensland, Tasmania, Victoria and Western Australia. The company acquired a large amount of its retail space (and its largest stores) as a result of Australia's two largest department store chains Myer and David Jones rationalising their store network. The company's expansion into Tasmania was accelerated by the merger with the Tasmanian department store chain FitzGerald's (better known to locals as "Fitzys") in 1995. Hence, Harris Scarfe played a key role in the rationalisation of Australian retailing in the 1990s.

In 1994, Harris Scarfe opened its first store in suburban Adelaide, at Parabanks in Salisbury. Following this successful store opening (in a former Venture store), Harris Scarfe acquired more sites in South Australia, as well as expanding its activities to other States.

During 1995, Harris Scarfe assumed control of the FitzGerald's Department Stores chain, which had been operated as a separate subsidiary of Charles Davis Limited since it was acquired in 1986. Also in 1995, Charles Davis Limited changed its name to Harris Scarfe Holdings Limited, and it then focussed on its department store activities, disposing of all of its other businesses and investments. Harris Scarfe continued to grow, becoming Australia's third largest department store retailer, with 38 stores, and trading in all states of Australia.


In 2000, Harris Scarfe established an online retailing subsidiary, leveraging on the existing successful mail and phone order business. As part of this expansion strategy, it acquired dStore, an online retailer which had experienced financial problems.


Harris Scarfe's suppliers and customers, and even a large number of the company's staff, were shocked when the thriving business was suddenly faced with cash-flow problems. The company made headlines in South Australia when concerned suppliers, from whom Harris Scarfe had purchased large amounts of stock on credit, entered the flagship store in Rundle Mall, and began retrieving their stock directly from the shelves, before shocked staff and customers.

The company soon entered voluntary receivership, and its shares were withdrawn from the Australian Stock Exchange. Examination of the company's books revealed that assets had been re-valued well above market value in an effort to conceal its spiralling losses. This practice had left the company with multimillion-dollar debts.

Harris Scarfe was sold to a private consortium, with the shareholders receiving little or no proceeds of the sale. The consortium set out to first stabilise the business, with possible expansion and a refloat on Australian Stock Exchange in the future.

The consortium began a store rationalisation program as a measure to help restore profits. In the days after the purchase all stores in Queensland and New South Wales, where Harris Scarfe was under-represented, were closed. In its home state of South Australia, two suburban stores were closed: Munno Para in the north, and Woodcroft in the south. The same occurred in Victoria and Tasmania, with a limited number of unprofitable store closures. In the final stage of rationalisation, it was decided the business would also withdraw from the Western Australian market.

It could be said that given the way in which the group evolved, with the acquisition of different retailers, the stores do not have a consistent style and layout. Some stores, including the store on Rundle Mall and in Hobart, were very old and had gone without significant modernisation or enhancement.

The merchandise mix remains, unlike their competitors at the top end and the bottom end focused on mid-market brands. This includes Bonds, Tontine, and Jason. Private label is limited.


The company then started a revitalisation program. The remaining stores were remodelled with new stock, new layouts and a new company logo. This was then followed by an extensive advertising campaign. As a result, Harris Scarfe soon began to enjoy record sales.

Harris Scarfe opened its first new store after the revitalisation, located at Werribee in Victoria. This was seen as a major step forward for the new company and resulted with much success in the growing Werribee area. This store was divested to Myer in 2007, as part of a deal whereby Myer has acquired a minority shareholding in Harris Scarfe.


The Allens department store chain in New South Wales and the ACT was taken over by Harris Scarfe from the Allen family.


Harris Scarfe reopened their completely refurbished store at Colonnades SA as part of the centre's refurbishment. The store reopened with a reduction in floor-space, occupying only the ground floor of its original three-floor store. The upper levels were planned to house a new Best & Less, JB Hi-Fi, and Cheap as Chips discount store. It was sold to Myer in 2007, along with the Elizabeth store.


Sydney-based Momentum Private Equity took an $80 million majority stake in the company after a life-saving restructure by a consortium led by former management.

Harris Scarfe opened new stores in Sunbury and Warrnambool in Victoria. With the Forest Hill store sold to Myer, Harris Scarfe opened two new stores at Eastland Shopping Centre and one at Box Hill.


On 17 September Harris Scarfe opened a brand new store at Tea Tree Plaza in Modbury, South Australia. This store was meant to start a new era and new attitude for Harris Scarfe. The aim of this store for Harris Scarfe is to have two specialised stores under one roof, both homewares and fashion. Unfortunately, this approach has still not changed the level of acceptance of Harris Scarfe, as they are still considered as a Target and Kmart and not a Myer or David Jones of the retail world.

On 2 October Harris Scarfe rebranded its Allens stores across NSW and ACT as Harris Scarfe.


Harris Scarfe opened two new stores; an HS Home in Gepps Cross (South Australia) opened its doors in June and HS Home The Glen (Victoria) opened in November.


Harris Scarfe closed its store in Bega NSW to focus on building its Merimbula and Moruya stores on the south coast. A Harris Scarfe store was also opened in Westfield Fountain Gate, Narre Warren, Victoria.


Momentum Corporate sold the business to Pepkor, a South African private equity house which owns discount retailer Best & Less. Pepkor owns retail businesses in Africa, Europe and Australia, and turns over $2.6 billion a year. The group bought Best & Less in 1998 and has grown the chain from 84 to about 200 stores.[1]


Jesinta Campbell was announced as the new Face of Boutique@hs.[2]

Harris Scarfe opened stores at the Woodgrove Shopping Centre in Melton (VIC) in October, a HS Home in Kotara (NSW) and its first Melbourne Metropolitan store in the Spencer Street Outlet in November. Face of Boutique@hs, Jesinta Campbell, was at the launch of the Spencer Street store.


Harris Scarfe opened a new store in Western Australia at Lakeside Joondalup, its first in the state since it had closed its stores in 2001.

Rundle Place flagship store launch

In March 2013, Harris Scarfe launched its flagship store in Adelaide at Rundle Place with a larger focus on fashion, bringing in Vogue Australia fashion editor Christine Centenera to style a parade.[3] The event was attended by Boutique@hs Ambassador Kyly Clarke, Australian actress Teresa Palmer and Michala Banas.

Simply Vera – Vera Wang

In October 2013, Harris Scarfe were officially launched[4] as the only Australian retailer allowed to sell the Simply Vera range [5] designed by Vera Wang who is based in New York City. The collection comprises a range of contemporary women’s fashion, accessories, bed and bath collections & home fragrance.


All Harris Scarfe stores range products from the following departments:

  • Manchester – bedding, linen, towels
  • Homewares – crockery, cutlery, glassware, food preparation
  • Cookware – cook sets, fry pans, cast iron
  • Personal Care & Laundry Electrical – hairdryers, shavers
  • Kitchen Electrical – kettles, toasters, food processors, blenders
  • Men's wear – jeans, shirts, polos, ties, business wear, underwear
  • Women's wear – Boutique@hs, tops, skirts, dresses, jackets, underwear
  • Sportswear – jumpers, tracksuits, compression wear, runners
  • Travel and Outdoor – luggage, camping

The 'HS Home' stores range the following departments:

  • Manchester
  • Homewares
  • Cookware
  • Kitchen Electrical
  • Personal Care & Laundry Electrical

Online store

In August 2013, Harris Scarfe relaunched their online store. The online store offers all the products from their weekly catalogue including Manchester, kitchen, apparel, and electrical.

List of stores

Australian Capital Territory
New South Wales
South Australia
Western Australia

See also


  1. ^ Harper, Jane (23 July 2012). "Harris Scarfe sold to private South African equity house, Pepkor". Herald Sun. 
  2. ^ Reines, Ros (3 October 2013). "Jesinta Campbell has a new Scarfe". The Daily Telegraph. 
  3. ^ Leslie, Chanelle (31 March 2013). "Harris Scarfe fashion parade by Christine Centenera". Not So Naked. 
  4. ^ Sweaty Betty PR (25 September 2013). "Simply Vera – Vera Wang for Harris Scarfe". Gracious Magazine. 
  5. ^ Garland, Phoebes (22 October 2013). "Simply Vera – Vera Wang collaborates with heritage department store Harris Scarfe". fashioninitiative.com.au. 

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