As previously reported, DS OpCo Pty Ltd, which trades as Harris Scarfe, was placed into receivership just two weeks before Christmas, but that its network of over 60 stores would continue to trade as normal while a full assessment of its operations was undertaken.
Receiver Vaughan Strawbridge, of Deloitte Restructuring Services, subsequently revealed late on Monday (6 January) that 44 stores would be offered up as a portfolio for sale, and that the remaining 21 Harris Scarfe stores would be closed — impacting 440 jobs.
The closures are planned to take place over the next four weeks, with sites located in NSW, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, Western Australia and the ACT.
Mr Strawbridge said the closures of some stores and the loss of jobs was “a difficult decision”, particularly given the support the retailer had received from customers and staff since his appointment as administrator and receiver.
“But [it has been] one necessary to position the Harris Scarfe business for a successful sale and continued operation,” he said, adding that roughly 1,380 jobs will be retained as part of the sale.
“All efforts are being made to redeploy affected staff around the rest of the store network, and all staff that leave the business will receive all wages and entitlements in full on the closure of individual stores.”
According to Mr Strawbridge, a range of factors had been included as part of the decision-making process, including past and expected future profitability of stores.
“Going forward, we certainly remain focused on running the broader store network, and selling the business as the best outcome for remaining employees and suppliers,” he said.
Following the initial announcement that it had gone into receivership, a number of customers took to social media to express their shock and hopes that Harris Scarfe could be salvaged.
“Sad news regarding this business today. One of my favourite shopping experiences,” one posted on the retailer’s Facebook page.
“Can’t believe the news today. I ❤ my Townsville store!! Thoughts are with all the staff, thank you for the wonderful customer service I’ve enjoyed since opening here,” said another.
A third customer said that “It will be very sad if Harris scarfe [sic] isn’t able to survive because for a lot of people out there in sth [sic] Australia and Tasmania especially it may be the only department store they have.”
Harris Scarfe has been in continuous operation since 1850, having been established in Adelaide, initially under a different name.