British Electrical Retailer
"Our business operates in twelve countries and we are Europe's leading electrical retailer"
Dixons Stores began life in 1937, when Charles Kalms opened a photographic studio in Southend Despite the austerity of the war years the business grew rapidly and Charles set up seven studios in the London area. When demand from servicemen dropped at the end of the war, only one was left, in Edgeware.
By the start of the 1950s, Stanley had persuaded his father to sell cameras and equipment to support a growing hobby market in photography, and to couple this with mail order and easy-pay credit terms. The business grew quickly, and by the start of the 1950s it was the largest photographic dealer in the UK. By the mid-fifties, massive growth meant that their purchasing power was increased too, and Stanley began regular visits to the Far East to negotiate the manufacture of cameras designed for Dixons. Soon, their own-brand Prinz cameras were on sale at their six large stores. Through a combination of buying in bulk and hard bargaining, Dixons gained a vital edge over their competition.
In 1962 the company was listed on the London Stock Exchange, and a period of rapid expansion began, fulled by acquisition. From 16 stores the company expanded to over 50 in just a few years. 1967 saw another key to growth, when the company acquired an 85,000 sq ft (c. 9000 m sq) colour photo processing laboratory in Stevenage, and mail order once again became the a key element of their business growth.
The 60s also saw the expansion of Japanese hi-fi and audio products, and Dixons were quick to add another string to their bow with an extension into home electronics. When Charles Kalms stood down in 1971, Stanley took over as company chairman, and decided to expand further into home electronics, using the same strategy as his father; striking deals with manufactuers in the Pacific, and offering value-for-money own-brand home electronics. TV sets, radios and audio equipment, alongside cameras. Throughout the 70s Dixons continued to acquire other companies, and as the hobby of photgraphy grew, Dixons' sales and expansion continued. Ever keen to innovate, Stanley developed the company in many other ways, including the building of (then) the largest computerised warehousing and distribution centre in Stevenage.
The Eighties onward
1984 saw the purchase of The Currys Group, which had a twofold effect. One was to add white goods to the portfolio, the other was to add 613 high street stores. Slowly, brown goods were added to the Currys shelves, expanding the group's market share even more. The other major purchase that year was Mastercare, a nationwide electrical appliance service and repair organisation. Their 41 depots and 900 engineers took a major role in extending the customer service operation, as well as supporting their existing logistics. Mastercare itself also runs PC Servicecall, which includes both a massive call centre and a field support team, dedicated to PC repair in the customer's home.
Further expansion in the 80s created a truly awesome retail operation, with a presence on alsmot every High Street in the UK.
The 80s also saw expansion internationally in 1987, when the company acquired Silo, the US's third largest power retailer, and their chain of 147 stores. This was the first foray outside the UK, and set the pace for what was to come in the 1990s.
1993 saw yet another step away from their roots, when the Vision Technology Group was absorbed. The major interest there was VTG's four PC World Superstores, as well as their expertise and contacts in the field of personal computers, peripherals and software. From these original four (Croydon, West Thurrock, Brentford and Staples Corner) in the London area, Dixons expanded the chain to over two hundred over a period of years.
Dixons are now focusing on their expansion into Europe, following their purchase of Scandanavian electrical retail company Elkjøp ASA in December 1999, Spanish computer retailer Ei System in January 2000, and a stake in the Greek electrical retailer Kotsovolos. They have also built a PC World store in Paris, although it is known as "PC City". Last I heard, it was doing very well indeed. Electro World and UniEuro are also growing in many major cities, selling everything from toasters through computers.
The launch of the Freeserve ISP in September 1998 was another boost to the company. It quickly became the fastest-growing ISP in the UK. They recently sold Freeserve to French ISP Wanadoo (actually a share swap), which makes them are the second largest shareholder in Wanadoo, and also sold @jakarta to Gameplay.
In 2000 a partnership was formed with the US company eMachines to exclusively market their machines in Europe, through their UK and European operations.
They are an aquisitive company - always on the lookout for either partners or smaller companies which they can work with or buy out to increase their market share. Their stated aim is to be the prime suplier of electrical goods in Europe - rather like Tescos dominates the grocery supertore sector. The Group's market value is about £4.7 billion at the time of writing.
Personal experience, from working in a part of it