Harris Scarfe is one of the oldest retail chains in Australia, with the first location opening more than 50 years prior to federation, in 1849. It was founded by British immigrants George Harris and John Lanyon, who travelled the gruelling three months by ship from England to start a hardware and ironmongery business in Adelaide, South Australia. After John left the business, two new partners, George Scarfe and Richard Smith, came on board in 1866, giving Harris Scarfe its name.
The company continued to grow in Adelaide, adding more products to its range and becoming well known, particularly in regional areas. However, it wasn’t until around 100 years after it was founded that the company saw its biggest boost. Post World War II demand grew for lifestyle products, and Harris Scarfe saw its success grow. In the 1990s, the chain expanded rapidly, adding stores interstate in New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The company developed valuable department store space made available by Myer and David Jones downsizing, and acquired Tasmanian retail chain FitzGerald’s.
Now, the company is refocusing, revamping its store layouts and relaunching its online store. It has struck a number of deals with overseas suppliers that have proven popular with customers.
In 2013, it was the only Australian outlet to sell designer Vera Wang’s ‘Simply Vera’ range of clothing and homewares, and in 2014 Graham Dean was hired from Myer as CEO. He has experience in retail, having spent his entire career in the area. Originally from the UK, he worked for a number of retail chains there before moving to Melbourne to try his luck in Australia. “I worked for 10 years at Habitat in the UK, which is a designer homewares and furniture company,” Graham says. “I spent all my time there in store operations. I was running stores as an area manager in the London and south-east region. Then I moved to a company called Heal’s, which is an upmarket homewares and furniture department store, spending four years there as the store operations and logistics director. They had a number of stores at that stage so I became a part of the senior team.”