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History:  "How's Business"
This article from C. M. Jones, AMIRE, is one of a series from the May 1953 edition of "Electrical and Radio Trading". It is a wonderful snapshot of the methods and problems traders faced in the early years after the war, in an area not renowned for high disposable income.

Making it Pay to Specialise
Nineteen years ago a love of radio and a belief that it could stand on its own feet led Frank Young of Market Street, Abergavenny, to a specialisation which now makes him the leading television and radio dealer in the town.  Like most of the successful individual dealers I have met, Mr. Young makes great play on personal and sympathetic service; how well he has gained the trust of his customers is shown by one simple example which occurred during my visit.  A woman walked into the shop and said "Sound was perfect last night but there was no vision, I do want it right for to-night.  Here's the key to the door. I'll be out all day but try and slip round."  She was no close friend but just one of the normal townspeople who have come to trust Mr. Young over the years.

But personal service and trustworthiness are not the only cornerstones of success.  As soon as Sutton Coldfield test began, so did Young's personal monitoring service.  Though 77 miles away, signal strengths were surprisingly high and on the opening day of the afternoon test transmissions Young's gave the first public demonstration of Television in Abergavenny.

Packed crowds surrounded his showroom and results speak for themselves.  By the time of Sutton Coldfield's official opening he had installed over ninety receivers in the area.  Even to-day with Wenvoe on the air, Sutton Coldfield is used two-thirds of the time.  Though but 17 miles away, 3 micro volts is all that can be received from Wenvoe on many installations.  Such is the difficulty of the terrain, signal strength varies by as much as 100 micro volts in similar aerials placed on two different chimney stacks on the same house.  "Wenvoe has been a great disappointment to us" he told me, and I found this view shared by all the other dealers to whom I spoke in this part of the world.

Pictures in Young's are rock steady, but only because of his resourcefulness.  25 micro volts is all he receives from Wenvoe on an aerial over his own shop and so his installation is 100 yards higher up the hill on a friendly hotel's roof and a low loss cable strings its way across the chimney pots of all the intervening shop-keepers.  They too have been fired by Mr. Young's enthusiasm into a state of active co-operation with his experiments.

An extensive advertiser, 4in. and 6in. double column spaces in the local press tell Abergavenny's inhabitants of Mr. Young's activities, not the least of which was the organisation of a local radio exhibition soon after the opening of Sutton Coldfield.  The three other dealers in the town, all of whom are situated within 80 yards of Young's, co-operated.  Television demonstrations were naturally the main attraction, but the value of audience participation is appreciated by Mr. Young and a simple microphone- cathode ray oscillograph installation with a banner "See your own voice" over it proved nearly as big an attraction as the TV and did its bit towards enhancing his technical reputation in the town.

Frank Young Claytoon by Aschroft

Frank Young
Claytoon by Ashcroft

A believer in the motto "If you want a thing done well, do it yourself," Mr. Young does all his own service and despite the interruptions of customers, travellers, etc. deals with over 1,000 repairs a year.  Always alert and inquisitive technically, the time he spent as a radar teacher in the RAF was as useful to him as his pupils.  In his six years' absence his wife, Phyllis, kept the business alive.

TV Made Specialisation Pay
With Murphy, KB and Bush as his main agencies, Mr. Young is now in larger and better situated premises at 1 High Street and his last words to me carry a really important message "Specialisation took a long time to pay me, but with the coming of television I'm really feeling the benefit.  It's ironed out the quiet seasons and brought me the little extras that are always floating about."

He has not as yet tried all-in maintenance and has adopted instead a club scheme.  Customers have a book in which they can stick 2s. 6d. or 5s. vouchers as and when they like.  There is no compulsion as to how and when they spend these vouchers, which Mr. Young cuts out of their books at the time of the sale or service charge. Conditions are simple, both for Mr. Young and the customer, to whom it is made clear, both by word and in the book, that money can only be refunded if the customer leaves the district.  By this scheme, book-keeping is reduced to a minimum, the customer has no feeling of money down the drain if his set is trouble-free, and the cash is there if and when a tube breaks down.

In Newport
In Newport 16 miles away, competition is naturally keener.  The main shopping area begins in Commercial Street, continues in High Street, and tails off in Clarence Place across the river.

Smack in the centre of the busiest part is J. & M. Stone's showroom in which I found manager Peter Reid, with his coat off busily assisting in the re-arrangement of one of the best displays of electric appliances I have ever seen in a Stone's branch.  Mr. Reid has an enthusiasm for selling that one often finds in Londoners and claims, with obvious truth, that it is his only hobby.  He has plenty of chances of practising it, for, such are the difficulties of the terrain, every television sales means a home demonstration, both to satisfy the customer that both that it is really possible to obtain a picture in his home and to find out whether it is going to make its way there via Sutton Coldfield or Wenvoe.  Though only 12 miles from the Welsh transmitter, over half the installations are lined up on the Midland station.

Steady Call for HP
Whichever it turns out to be, Mr. Reid finds the door rod type of aerial useless and in 7 cases out of every 10 a full H installation is necessary.  The average price for this is ?9, which is an appreciable percentage of the ?65 to ?70 the average customer spends on the receiver alone and is one of the reason for Mr. Reid's steady hire purchase figures.  An enthusiastic believer in all-in maintenance, he is selling contracts to over 90 per cent of all buyers of television and radiograms.  Strangely the demand for long-playing facilities is not noticeably effecting his radiogram sales and just under half the sales are still 78 rpm only models.

The falling off in the sale of irons is as true here as anywhere but, strangely, kettles had suddenly come into their own and the week before my call had been one of the busiest for several years.  Dry shavers are a different proposition and make good an appreciable proportion of the seasonable drop in sales of TV and radio.  This appears to be a worthwhile theme for specialised window displays.  Mr. Reid sets great store by window display and position. "We do no advertising" he told me "and believe that our front-rank positions and excellent and comprehensive stocks are our best sales aid."

That Wenvoe is having a good effect is undeniable, for despite last year's pre-budget rush, Mr. Reid's turnover is staying up, even now the first rush to buy has steadied.

Power of Record Programmes
In the opinion of John Woods, manager of the Curry's branch at 54 Commercial Street, 400 yards further on, its opening is also having its effects in other directions. "It has stimulated interest in home entertainment all round.  Sales of television, radio and radiograms are all up.  Especially radiograms, and for that we have to thank programmes such as Housewife's  Choice.  Women hear records they like and decide they must have something on which they can play them themselves.  So they buy a radiogram.  Remember, the Welsh are a musical race and are never happier than when listening to music," he told me.

His views about records also seem sound, for A. & E. Henry and Co. Ltd., the only near competitor to Curry's and Stone's, were showing a wonderful range which, from the condition of the holders is constantly changing, but the rate of stock turn is another story.