'The rise of social media had made people like him more prone to personal abuse. ''You might have got a nasty phone call or a letter back in the old days but now anything slightly controversial, these people, whoever they might be, they go for you zealously and with hatred all over Twitter,'' he said. ''If you are a CEO of a company and you speak out and then the board gets involved … it is suicidal'.
''Because of my profile, I then get all these threats and people home in on me. It becomes me, Gerry Harvey and Solomon Lew - billionaires, greedy, ugly, old, out-of-date, c---s, and the people writing this seem to think we have been ripping them off for years and that we deserve this,'' he said. ''I think to myself, 'you don't want to get up every day and live this life'.
''When people criticise you like that, it makes you think, 'do I really want to do this? No, I don't'. I have got so much heat that I think I have to sit back now".
Mr Harvey said the gripe of the retailing coalition was not about ''online retail versus bricks and mortar'' but rather about closing a tax loophole that did not support Australian jobs or the local economy. ''What we are talking about is someone buying a guitar in New York, for instance, and having it sent over here 30 per cent cheaper. It is giving that overseas retailer the advantage. It makes you think, 'I am paying all the bills, creating jobs, and this guy is getting the sale and doesn't contribute anything to our society'.''
He agrees it was "poor judgment to launch the campaign in the post-Christmas sales period".
"Mr Harvey said the launch of his own online store in the 1990s had been another example of bad timing. ''When I opened my site, I was doing $30,000 a week turnover, so I closed it and I opened it up again … I got the same turnover so I closed it again. Now I am opening another one as we speak because in this business it is as much about timing as anything else".
"The missing link in this argument is suppliers of branded goods. They are just as responsible for setting the prices we pay in Australia. Why are brands like Bose so much more expensive in Australia than anywhere else? Because the suppliers charge cost prices that are more expensive than retail prices overseas! Where the public wants the brand (eg Apple, Bose) the retailers either have to pay the cost or the supplier won't sell to them!!"