Vacuum cleaner retailer Godfreys enters voluntary administration with 200 jobs to go

Derek Rose
The Nightly
2 Min Read
The last Godfreys ad campaign, launched in late 2023, urged its customers to feel free. Digitally altered image.
The last Godfreys ad campaign, launched in late 2023, urged its customers to feel free. Digitally altered image. Credit: William Pearce/The Nightly

Just months after launching an ambitious marketing campaign encouraging customers to view cleanliness as freedom, leading vacuum retailer Godfreys Group has entered voluntary administration.

Nearly 200 jobs will go and 54 stores will shut within the next fortnight, capping off a dizzying plunge for an Australian brand founded in Melbourne during the Great Depression.

Three partners of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) Australia have been appointed as voluntary administrators of Godfreys’ Australian entities, with two PwC partners from New Zealand appointed over its New Zealand subsidiary, PwC announced on Tuesday.

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Established in 1931, Godfreys is one of the world’s largest vacuum retailers, operating 141 stores and employing more than 600 staff across Australia and New Zealand, with another 28 stores run by franchisees.

Most will continue to trade but 54 will close shortly, resulting in 171 staff in Australia and 22 in New Zealand being laid off.

The company gained national prominence in the 1990s, thanks to its quirky ads, one of which famously featured its then-chief executive John Hardy showing off a vacuum cleaner providing enough suction to pick up a bowling ball.

Godfreys ads were crazy crazy
The Godfreys ad in the 1990s featuring the 7.3kg bowling ball. Credit: NCA NewsWire

It appeared the company had looked back to its campaign-heavy past with its most recent ‘Feel Free’ ads, developed by ad agency Thinkerbell.

Launched in September 2023, the ads featured a Christ-like protagonist gliding across clouds in a bid to emulate what both agency and Godfreys described as that “post-clean euphoria”.

Unfortunately it wasn’t enough with PWC partner Craig Crosbie pointing out on Tuesday that like many retailers, Godfreys had faced a challenging economic and operating environment.

“Lower customer demand amid cost of living pressures, higher operating costs and increased competition have all taken a toll on profitability, with some stores more impacted than others,” he said.

“”Our aim is to move quickly to restructure Godfreys to preserve as much of the business and as many jobs as possible.”

The administrators expect to sell the business and assets of the restructured business as a going concern, with strong interest expected from prospective buyers.

Godfreys was founded in Melbourne by Godfrey Cohen during the Great Depression, at a time when vacuum cleaners were sold door-to-door and could not be purchased in Australian stores.

It listed on the ASX in late 2014 but was taken private just four years later after struggling from competition from retailers such as Harvey Norman, JB Hi-Fi, Amazon and Kogan.com.

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