The boom in sales and e-commerce during the pandemic has led to big gains for some retail bosses in this year's AFR Rich List

SuppliedRuslan Kogan, founder and CEO of Kogan.
  • Some retailers benefited from the boom in sales and e-commerce amid the coronavirus pandemic, according to tomorrow’s AFR Rich List.
  • Ruslan Kogan, founder and CEO of Kogan, saw his net wealth rise to $575 million, putting him back on the Rich List after falling off last year’s edition.
  • Retail baron Gerry Harvey saw his wealth surge by 35% to $2.57 billion.
  • Visit Business Insider Australia’s homepage for more stories.

When the ship steadies from the coronavirus pandemic and we start returning to some semblance of normality, retail is one of the sectors which will change permanently.

The advent of lockdowns and social distancing saw Australians accelerate a long trend toward e-commerce and online retail. According to research by Deloitte, Australia enjoyed a $4 billion e-commerce boom during the pandemic, with online small businesses seeing a boon from the country’s supercharged online spending habits.

Of course, it’s not the small business strivers who end up emblazoned on the glossy pages of The Australian Financial Review’s 2020 Rich List.

The Rich List, which lands in full on Friday, has seen big gains for Australia’s e-commerce barons, who have profited off the coronavirus bump.

Ruslan Kogan, founder and CEO of Kogan, has reentered the Rich List after falling off it in 2019 thanks to a low share price at the time. Following vigorous growth as entertainment-starved, locked down Australians turned to online retailers to get their fix – Kogan’s sales were up 39.3% compared to the 2019 financial year – Ruslan’s net wealth currently sits at $575 million.

Similar boons went to Harvey Norman boss Gerry Harvey, who saw his wealth surge by 35% to $2.57 billion. Though Harvey Norman is best known as a bricks-and-mortar retailer, it too capitalised on e-commerce when its stores shut down nationally, and then again in Melbourne.

The company reported a 7.6% increase in total revenue and a 19.4% jump in net profit, which Harvey said was the best results he’d seen in over 60 years of retailing. Of course, the famously ornery executive was quick to dismiss the role of e-commerce, despite not breaking it out in the company results.

“People get out there and talk about how [online is] going to take over all the sales, and it’s going to be 70 per cent of refrigerator sales or something, and I said that’s a con, and I still maintain it’s a con,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Either way, he’s done well for himself out of the pandemic – a fact which got him in social media hot water back in March when he celebrated that fact while dismissing the seriousness of the virus.

The middlemen of the e-commerce world also saw big gains. Afterpay founder Nick Molnar – who became Australia’s youngest self-made billionaire after the buy now, pay later company’s remarkable share rally – now sits at number 50 on the Rich List with a net worth of $1.86 billion.

Competitor Zip also saw its co-founder Larry Diamond debut at with an estimated fortune of $552 million.

Expect to see more online sellers worm their way onto the Rich List in the coming years.

The Financial Review Rich List will available on www.afr.com and a special Rich List edition of AFR Magazine on Friday, October 29.

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