Dixons’ merger with Carphone Warehouse continues the retailer’s legacy of success by continually innovating and listening to their customers.

When Charles Kalms opened the Dixons photographic studio in 1937, with share capital of just £100, it would have been inconceivable that 77 years later the company would be embarking on an audacious quest to create an organisation worth around £3.8bn, driven by an ideal of a digitally connected world.

But when Dixons Retail boss Seb James completed the merger with Carphone Warehouse, he continued a legacy that has seen the success of one of the UK high street’s most famous names inextricably linked to the notion of change.

From those early days and under the subsequent leadership of the legendary Stanley Kalms it capitalised on emerging consumer trends – in this instance the post-war interest in photography – to ensure Dixons entered the 1950s as the leading photographic dealer in the UK.

The store portfolio expanded rapidly in the 1960s and so too did the company’s sense of itself, with the addition of developing and printing services as well as the introduction of a Japanese audio and hi-fi offer.

“Dixons has been at its best when it has innovated to stay in touch with the needs of its customers”

Chris Brook-Carter, editor-in-chief

Throughout its history, Dixons has been at its best when it has innovated to stay in touch with the needs of its customers, whether it was through the acquisition of Currys in 1984, the formation of The Link in the 1990s, or the launch of Freeserve in 1998.

Conversely, some of its darkest times, when sales growth stalled at the end of the 2000s, came when the retailer lost touch with how consumer trends were altering retail. Despite launching Dixons Online as far back as 1997, which included next-day delivery, multichannel progress fell behind industry standards.

First under the leadership of John Browett and more recently James and his UK and Ireland boss Katie Bickerstaffe, momentum has been restored by focusing on a multichannel proposition with service at its heart.

The journey of Dixons from that single store in Southend to this week’s deal is a single but powerful example of how British retail has continued to reinvent itself in order to drive growth and serve consumers.

This latest deal is predicated on the assumption that the retail world is now moving faster than ever before. The question the newly formed Dixons Carphone giant poses for the rest of the sector is what its vision of a mobile, connected consumer means for retail overall. And, are all retailers ready to anticipate and adapt in the way this ever changing organisation seems to be?

  • Chris Brook-Carter, editor-in-chief, Retail Week