I'm sorry but I really don't like this argument. The answer, from my point of view, is yes. I agree that they don't really stock anything 'Made in Australia' but...
HN and the like will employ people who a) are young and getting the job as their first line on the CV or b) do not have the education or skills to get another job.
I feel a particular empathy with those in category a) since I was in that position not all that long ago and remember how hard it was to get that first job.
Every Ojays/Darrell Lea/David Jones/Harvey Norman that goes out of business costs the jobs of a whole lot unskilled and unqualified people who would struggle the most to get a job somewhere else. Not to mention the flow on effect to the professionals in this thread... ie whatever law firm that handles HN's commercial leasing... the accounting firm that audits them etc...
Henry Carter and O&J don't employ any staff (or, at least, nowhere near the amount that they would if they had the same stock in a retail premises), they don't lease any premises (that I know of). They do not fill the void created by the loss of other retail jobs.
Whatever you think of the management of HN (and I agree that it has been poor), I find it hard to believe that people would want them, or the retail sector in general, to fail. The retail sector fulfills an important function particularly in Victoria and NSW - it employs a lot of young people, and unskilled adults.
And since I am on a rant (I know this is getting way off topic)... this (costing unskilled jobs) is a large part of the reason that I hate the self-checkout machines that are at Coles/Woolies these days:
1) they are slower than getting a trained checkout person to scan your stuff. People sit there struggling with the machines for ages since they don't know how to use them or bag stuff up efficiently. And we are gradually approaching the time where people are getting so used to having these slow machines that they don't remember the days before them when things were quicker.
2) they cost jobs for young people and adults who really need them. To their credit, the Woolworths near me employs a lot of teenagers and young adults from the nearby housing estate, as well as a few people with disabilities. But those 8 self checkout machines are 4 people who don't get a shift that day.
3) because of the above they have no advantages for customers or employees, they exist simply to increase the profits of the Coles/Woolies monopoly. Even at the busiest times, only half of the actual checkouts at Woolies are manned now - the rest sit empty since they know they can funnel people into the self checkout service.
Cool thanks for bringing me into this.... I did choose not to participate in this debate but for some reason we have been implicated.
Firstly Henry Carter and Owen & James are not great examples as our sales wouldn't move the dial of any listed retailer here in Australia. We would be the equivalent of a comparison to a sole trader opening a shop in a small town. Id like to think that the reason that we exist is to offer Australian consumers something that is differentiated from what is already available in stores and offer something better than the big guys can offer. Sure if we grow, we will employ people that's how it works for any business that grows.
Here is some food for thought.
1) the internet is changing the game whether these guys like it or not
2) Just like a shift in sales from B&M to online, there are a shift of jobs and costs involved. Take the Iconic as an example. They sell as much as one large physical department store and employ just as many people as they would to staff a store (on a FTE basis). They pay a lease albeit a warehouse and they also pay more people i.e. Australia post, the courier, a photography team, their audit team etc etc.
3) This is not a socialist economy. Evolution and development of skill sets has always been key. Where technology has exposed inefficiencies it has opened a plethora of opportunities for those who adapt.
4) If noone used the self-scan checkouts then they wouldnt exist. Just like if noone wanted to shop online it wouldnt exist. In fact this whole debate wouldnt even be taking place if the population chose to act differently.
To say that online has taken away Australian jobs is a comment just as ignorant as the comments that Gerry himself has made. If you actually analyse the financial metrics of any online business you will see their cost structure is IDENTICAL in dollars as a brick and mortars retailer. It is just allocated differently within the economy.