Accelerator: From little acorns

Stanley Kalms turned an ailing photographic studio into Dixons, the mighty consumer electronics chain. Dave Waller reports.

In 1937, Charles Kalms flicked through the phone book in search of a name for his new photographic studio. He stopped at 'Dixon'. It was a pragmatic choice - his blank signboard had space for only six letters. Back then, he would have had no idea that Dixons was to become one of the most respected and feared names on the British high street.

Business didn't go well initially. The first studio, on Southend High Street, was followed by six more, but Kalms was soon back with a solitary branch, this time in Edgware. Things may have stayed that way had his son Stanley not joined the family firm from school in 1948. The youngster persuaded his dad to ditch the photography and start selling high-margin camera kit instead, and soon they had a fully fledged mail-order business.

Stanley Kalms attributes the company's early success to a trip in the 1950s to the Far East. He couldn't move for cheap consumer electronics, and Dixons became the first UK company to set up deals with these hi-tech producers, putting it at the sharp end of the technology revolution that would later bring us everything from TVs to MP3s. Said Kalms: 'I found my formula.'

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