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Harris Scarfe enters administration in Australia

Harris Scarfe

Australia department store retailer Harris Scarfe said it has entered into administration, the latest casualty hurt by the nation’s sluggish retail sector.

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According to local media reports, an unnamed secured lender to Harris Scarfe has appointed partners Vaughan Strawbridge, Kathryn Evans and Tim Norman of DRS to facilitate a sale process to save the Victorian business.

“Harris Scarfe is a longstanding retail institution. We will be making every effort to secure a future for the business and intend to commence an immediate sale of business process,” Strawbridge said.

All of its nationwide stores will remain open during the search for a buyer. This is not the first time Harris Scarfe has been on the brink of bankruptcy.

The heritage department store was rescued from bankruptcy in 2001 and has changed hands four times in last 19 years.

In November, previous owner Greenlit sold Harris Scarfe to private equity group, Allegro Funds, which also owns Australian discount apparel retailer Best & Less and New Zealand’s Postie Plus.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Harris Scarfe is the only Allegro Funds-owned brand to be put into receivership.

Founded in central Adelaide by John Lanyon and George Peter Harris in 1850, Harris Scarfe is estimated to be worth some $380 million today with some 1,800 staff.

Headquartered in Melbourne, it sells apparel, bed linen, kitchen wares, home wares and electrical appliances.

Harris Scarfe operates some 60-plus stores across Australia in key domestic cities and regions such as Sydney, Brisbane, Canberra, Wagga Wagga, Geelong, Adelaide and Hobart, as well as an online store.

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Its retails rivals include Australia’s Kmart and Big W. Austalia’s retail sales in October remained stagnant, according to figures released by the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS). Department store sales were the downfall, down – 0.1% during the four-week period, it said.