RETAIL giant Harvey Norman has compared Ireland's economic downturn to the return of the "potato famine", writes Billy Cantwell.
Speaking at yesterday's annual meeting, chief executive Gerry Harvey described the performance of his 13 Irish stores as "catastrophic" and said he regretted expanding into the Irish market. But he added that the investment was too big to pull out now.
"In Ireland, we are down 25- 40pc like for like on last year. It's catastrophic," he told reporters.
"Ireland is a real worry. I've never seen something get belted like Ireland. In Slovenia, it's holding up quite well, Singapore's sales are quite good, Malaysia is good. New Zealand, like Australia, its not that bad, but Ireland. Phew, just imagine you opened in Ireland; you'd want to go and cut your throat. The potato famine, someone said, the return of the potato famine in Ireland."
He said the two newest stores, in Northern Ireland, were "a bad mistake".
"Take me back and let me hindsight them," he said.
The company's CEO Katie Page said: "It's a depressing time for a lot of people, certainly for the executive directors here; we are working so hard, we wish that Ireland wouldn't return to a potato famine."