If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is the importance of home. With successive lockdowns and work-from-home forcing us to spend more time than ever behind our own front doors, our homes have become offices, school rooms, gyms, and most importantly, sanctuaries from the uncertainty that has surrounded us for the past 18 months.
The team at Harvey Norman have always believed in helping people to enjoy and appreciate their homes. With four dedicated departments - appliances, technology, furniture and bedding — the company strives to provide elegant, beautiful, and comfortable solutions for every room.
“It’s four shops under one roof — four departments stores with four different managers,” explained Jamie Purcell, furniture store manager at Harvey Norman Galway, which recently marked one year in business in the Gateway Retail Park. “For the customer who has a whole house to fit out, we join forces, but you would be dealing with a different specialist in each department.”
Founded in Australia in 1983 by Gerry Harvey and Ian Norman, the company has been in Ireland for 18 years, and proudly stocks and supports many Irish products across all departments.
“We are fiercely proud of our Irish products,” Mr Purcell said. “We don’t buy off the shelf, we design a lot of our own products. Eighty per cent of our mattresses are made in Ireland.”
The bedding department is a revelation. The large selection of mattresses guarantees that anyone will find the perfect one for a good night’s sleep, whatever their needs. Customers are encouraged to get comfortable when testing, and lie in their normal sleeping position to get a real feel for the bed.
Harvey Norman also offers its own pillows, and measures each customer to ensure the pillow is the exact right size to keep your head in perfect alignment while you sleep. There is a choice of four fillings - down and feather, gel, fibre, and memory foam.
“Our pillows are designed by a chiropractor, that’s something that’s unique to us,” Mr Purcell revealed. “You don’t realise the importance of your pillow until you are not sleeping, or until you get a good one.”
‘It gives the customer so many options’
This personalised approach is replicated throughout the store. Whatever you need, you can find a piece to fit your lifestyle; the company has one of the largest selections of furniture and bedding in Galway, and most pieces can be customised for each customer.
“Everything on the furniture and bedding floor is exclusive to Harvey Norman.
“People’s homes vary in shape and size,” he explained. “Many of our sofas are modular and can be changed to suit your home. It’s not bespoke, but there is a huge variety of options. We have everything from classic recliners and craft Italian made sofas to vintage Chesterfields. We can tailor to anyone’s needs really.
“With our wardrobes, you can customise within certain parameters. It gives the customer so many options to get exactly what they want. We try in every department to have a variety of options to give them what they are looking for. The bedding department has its own selection of rugs and mirrors in soft finishes for the bedroom, and a huge selection of linen.”
The furniture department also offers a wide range of homewares, including textiles, wall art, mirrors, rugs, and all sorts of accessories to give your home the perfect finishing touches.
“When I bought my house I came in here and I was able to kit out my whole house with the exception of flooring and bathrooms. We want to be able to help people get everything for their homes. This year we branched into outdoor furniture. It was a massive success so I think it will become a seasonal staple for us.
“We would like to be able to kit out inside and outside your home, and your patio. Downstairs [the appliances department] has outdoor heaters now, so we’re trying to tick all the boxes.”
With a well stocked technology department featuring the latest tech, a wide range of electrical items, along with Synge & Byrne Cafe on the first floor to enjoy a well deserved break during your shopping trip, this is a one-stop destination for the home.
The computer department also hosts the popular Wonder Photo Shop, where customers can connect their phone, tablet, USB stick, or use the company’s dedicated app to print off photos, canvas prints, T-shirts, and other decorative items for their home, using their own images.
Harvey Norman is always keen to respond to customers’ needs, and this was evident over the past 18 months with the rapid expansion of its home office selection.
“We have expanded our range massively to suit the needs of everyone,” Mr Purcell said. “We have a wide range of desks and chairs, and the computer department expanded their ranges as well. We were fairly quick to react to suit the needs of our customers. While demand has dropped off from the initial surge at the start of lockdown, we are still seeing customers looking to upgrade their home office set up. We always had a home office department, and it went online during lockdown.”
Lockdown was a particular challenge for the fledgling store, which opened its doors on July 22 last year and found it had to close two of its departments when the country shut up shop in November. Apart from the month of December a large part of the store remained closed until May of this year.
While the appliances and technology departments, located on the ground floor, were deemed essential, furniture and bedding, both located on the much larger first floor, were not. While items could be purchased by click and collect, customers could not browse the items in person.
“It was a particular challenge for us,” he recalled. “It was easy to go into lockdown, because you just turn off the escalator. During lockdown the building was open, but upstairs was off limits. When time allowed, we were able to get people in to do a virtual tour. There is a full virtual tour of the store still available on our website. It allows customers to tour the store and click a link when they see a product they like. It’s our way of serving our customers when they couldn’t physically come into the store.”
‘Every store is like a family’
While the company is rightly focused on customers, its commitment to its staff is also evident. Mr Purcell, who has worked in five Harvey Norman stores in Limerick, Cork, Waterford, and Galway, during this time at the company, has found a really strong ethos throughout the company.
“I’ve worked in a lot of places, but there’s a family feel here,” he said. “This is the fifth Harvey Norman store I’ve worked in. It has been voted as a great place to work four years running, and it really is. There are opportunities for people coming in in any role. I was a salesperson for six months, then two years as an assistant manager, and I’ve been a store manager in various locations since. If people are willing to put in the effort the opportunities are there. One of our core values is to promote from within.
“Every store is like family,” he added. “We’re quite a close group. There’s a lovely feeling working for this company. It’s very customer orientated - that’s why we cater for so much of the home, to meet the needs of the customer.”
The company offers a busy calendar of promotions throughout the year, and as it prepares to celebrate 18 years in Ireland next month, customers can expect a bumper month of promotions in October to mark the occasion. The store will also launch its Christmas department in the coming weeks.
“When it comes to getting your Christmas gifts, the time is now with the way the world is at the moment,” Mr Purcell concluded. “International shipping has been affected so badly. My advice this year would be to get it done sooner rather than later. It’s going to be a bad year to leave it until the last minute.”