Whoever becomes the new CEO of Harveys and Bensons, following the departure of Stuart Machin, has their work cut out for them with Harveys, as it falls short in key areas. Parts of its new strategy will help rectify this but regaining trust among shoppers following the Steinhoff scandal is essential.

Few retailers had a tougher end to 2017 than Harveys and Bensons, with sales falling by 4.9% for the three months to December 2017, as shoppers shied away from making major purchases, and Steinhoff, its parent company, became embroiled in an accounting scandal. Of the two fascias, Harveys was weaker with Machin, stating that it was “not trading as well as it should”.

Encouraging shoppers to consider Harveys for living room furniture is the first step, with a GlobalData survey showing Harveys was the 13th most considered retailer for living room furniture for the final three months of 2017, its highest ranking in any 2017 quarter.

This was significantly behind DFS, IKEA and Argos and a disappointing performance for the fifth largest living room furniture retailer in 2017. Steinhoff has taken steps to improve this, with the appointment of new creative, digital and PR agencies. Improving perceptions on price and quality should be the focus of Harveys’ new message as primary research by GlobalData found that Harveys’ customers scored it below average in four of the five most important considerations when buying for home.

Improving trustworthiness is essential, especially as Harveys was below average before the Steinhoff scandal broke. While the link between Harveys and Steinhoff is not explicit, once customers establish the connection, many will shy away from purchasing from it for fear of not receiving their goods, with this caution being exacerbated by the tougher economic climate.

Emphasising customer service throughout the process, as Harveys is above average for helpful staff and home delivery, will improve trust and create customer recommendations. Despite its above-average perceptions, Harveys TrustPilot score is below DFS, ScS, Oak Furniture Land and Sofology, indicating that it needs to develop its customer service training further to keep pace.

Elements of the new strategy being implemented will improve perceptions in these five areas. Harvey’s introduced an everyday low price pricing in 2017 but while shoppers need to be made aware that prices are consistently low, Harveys must allow itself room to run promotions to maintain awareness during the Boxing Day and Easter sales period. Steinhoff may consider extending the guarantees on its products and place more emphasis on that fact that it manufactures most of its own products in the UK to reiterate quality.