It looks now to have been a PR disaster, at least over in Oz. Inside Retailing is scathing:
For nearly a week now Australia's dumbest PR consultancy has fuelled blanket publicity telling every Australian consumer loud and clear that they'll get great savings by shopping online on off-shore sites. Not only will they save GST of 10 per cent, the media has educated us all, but there are greater savings of as much as 50 per cent on some lines - and even free shipping on some websites.At least the Kiwis here, to the best of my knowledge, haven't poured money into the campaign. At least I've not seen any ads.
Television news programs, talkback radio, websites and newspapers have been packed with graphic examples of the savings to be made by shopping off-shore and the whole community now understands that charging GST on imported goods valued at under $1000 would make no difference to consumers' purchasing decisions.
The overriding message in consumers' minds? 'Have you tried shopping online yet? You'll save a fortune!'
Even Gerry Harvey now appears to have conceded it was all a big miscalculation. 'Giant cock-up' would be a more apt phrase.
Harvey apparently told The Age that he felt his involvement was "suicidal" and that the full page advertisements during the Boxing Day sales was "bad timing". He claimed the message had been poorly communicated.
In the end, the retailers in this poorly-counselled coalition have invested $200,000+ promoting to the Australian community how much better off they are shopping offshore.
They've alienated their existing customers, discouraged would-be customers and shipped sales right out the door to the US or EU.
Far from presenting a valid, cohesive case for what is essentially taxation reform, this coalition and its PR campaign strategists have actively damaged the market for every single retailer in Australia.
This is the sort of misadventure that will be used in case studies in universities worldwide in future years, a breathtaking illustration of public relations ineptitude.