When Harris Scarfe Australia Pty Ltd was formed to affect a management buy-out, the “new” Harris Scarfe appointed Hughes Public Relations to assist with the massive brand re-establishment task it faced. The future of 150-year–old retail brand looked bleak.
Only six months earlier, trading in Harris Scarfe Limited shares on the Australian Stock Exchange had been suspended, a Voluntary Administrator had been appointed by the Harris Scarfe Board to investigate accounting irregularities totalling nearly $125 million and the company’s major creditor had appointed leading insolvency and recovery accountants Ferrier Hodgson as Receiver and Manager.
The new Harris Scarfe, a private company that had bought the retail operations of the failed public company, faced a massive task of reshaping the organisation into a successful 21st century retailer and rebuilding faith among its key stakeholders - employees, customers, suppliers and regulators.
Once the immediate trading issues had been addressed, and the shape of the new retailer became apparent, a diverse communication program began. The objectives of the rebranding and profile-building strategy were to:
The two-part communication strategy proposed by Hughes Public Relations and adopted by Harris Scarfe was specific. The principal elements of the sales drive public relations campaign were print and electronic media coverage of major in-store events including:
The principal elements of the reputation-building public relations campaign were print and electronic news media coverage of Harris Scarfe statements on major issues, and development of Robert Atkins’ standing as a retail and Adelaide issues commentator. These included: