By Chris Nicholls

Strathfield Group is looking to expand at near JB Hi-Fi rates over the coming years, and pushing to increase their mobile phone business by 50 per cent, according to chairman Richard Poole.

Speaking to, Poole said despite well-documented financial woes from 2003-2005, and a drop in expected earnings this financial year, the Strathfield Group would look to add significant store numbers every year from now on.

“Very much now, we’re saying ‘we want to push this thing along for a little bit more growth, we want to seriously focus more on growing 20 or 30 stores a year’. We want to start to say ‘okay, we want to grow our mobile business by 50 per cent’. We’re happy car’s going to bubble along … and our digital business; we see that as very much a support role to the other two categories.”

Poole hoped Strathfield’s unique deal that offered $350 store credit with every phone sold would translate into retail margin.

“It becomes that if our offering is better to support mobile, the mobile will work better, the retail will also chug along nicer [sic] and if you go in you can buy [for example] a Navman, but if your wife or girlfriend goes in, she can get an iPod, and we’re making them priced at the right levels, and there’s $350-worth of goods you want to buy, it’ll just improve that, and that’s part of where we’re targeting the business to go to.”

He said the company’s expertise in the mobile phone arena (the company was the first to import them into Australia) and consistent top or number two Optus dealer status ranking nationwide would mean things would “just get better”.

Poole also reiterated his comments made yesterday that the company hoped to see a lift from the iPhone’s introduction, with only one caveat – supply.

“As long as the stock’s there, we’ll sell it,” he said.
“Put it this way, I’d rather be an Optus dealer than a Telstra dealer.”

And again, despite the doom and gloom predictions, Poole said Strathfield was in “robust” shape.

“When we took it over, it was pretty terminal, and that was fixed with a pretty massive first year – we got $8.3 million in EBITDA sorted out – and actually, we were on track to do a bit better than that this year, other than from about February onwards, when sales went so far down it was ridiculous.”

“That was a bit nasty, but effectively, what it means is we’ve been able to recover from a position where we were concerned about maintaining future viability of the business to saying ‘look, the business is robust now and can handle these sorts of events’. We don’t have the balance sheet we need, but we know we’ve got the business humming along, and what we’ve shown is that we sold twice the number of mobile phones at Christmas [2007] than we do normally, and we know we can make good money out of mobiles,” he said.