You might think the story of Dixons Electronics goes the same way as the story of other famous high street names, such as Woolworths, Virgin Records or C&A. They all bit the dust due to changing shopping trends, new technology and online competitors offering lots more lots cheaper and without the kind of overheads a physical shop has to contend with. Yet traditional high street shopping still exists, and so does Dixons, as it happens. This is the story of an enduring and much-loved brand that seemed to disappear overnight, but actually still exists today.
Dixons Electronics was founded in London in 1937 by the duo Charles Kalms and Michael Mindel. They both operated separate businesses quite successfully and joined forces to establish Dixons Studios Limited, originally operating what became a chain of photographic studios around the capital. The Second World War came at a bad time for the duo, however, and they were reduced to just one location in Edgeware, North London. But the post war years were where the company built its empire and, triggered by the nation’s love of photography, developed a retail arm that went from strength to strength.
Dixons Electronics expands into retail
A string of stores and an ingenious mail order division saw the business thrive, and by the 1960s it was the UK’s leading photography retailer and had several agreements with leading Japanese manufacturers.
Rapid expansion saw Dixons Electronics acquire various competitors and the UK music scene saw it diversify into hi-fi equipment and subsequently televisions and refrigerators. Dixons was the country’s biggest Electronics retailer with a portfolio of over 600 stores.
Eventually Dixons was affected by the advance of technology, businesses it had acquired had kept their brand names but the specialities of each began to blur as technologies offered easier solutions and devices such as mobile phones did the same things that four or five different items did ten years before. Brand names suddenly became outdated and people were confused.
The end of Dixons Electronics on the high street
Clearly the high street was changing and Dixons made the decision in 2006 to go online only, but it couldn’t compete with more specialist names performing better and the traditional image of Dixons as a high street store didn’t transfer online. In essence, what had made it successful was eventually what killed it; the name, the brand and the high street presence.
In 2012 Dixons Electronics ceased trading, or so most people thought. Dixons’ parent company DSG International still owned some big retail names, and anyone looking for Electronics items on the high street is still likely to find them in stores operated under the Dixons banner. But if you are feeling super nostalgic and miss that buzz of walking down the high street and checking out what’s new in Dixons Electronics, you can find as many as 21 stores bearing the Dixons names in airports in Europe and the Eurotunnel terminal, serving the duty free market.
The Dixons name still lives on, and it is also still listed on the stock exchange, and with that spirit and sense of endurance who would bet against it finding a way back on to your local high street someday soon?