Currys – the Evolution of an Electronics Giant

Opened in 1884 by Henry Curry when he started constructing bicycles in a shed at the back of his garden, Currys has since involved into one of the most prominent electronics retailers in the UK.

Currys: in-store view

Dixons takeover

Perhaps the key moment in the history of the Currys brand was its takeover by the Dixons group in 1984. Despite sharing very similar parts of the marketplace – both specialise in whitegoods, telecommunications and computer technology – the decision was made to keep two very seperate brand identities. However, it did see a change in direction for the Currys company, with less of a focus on the large, out-of-town centres that had previously made up most of it’s business, and moving the brand into the high street.

Currys has retained a key focus on four main departments – computers, home entertainment, large domestic appliances (such as washing machines) and small domestic appliances (such as toasters) – and their stores and generally split into clearly-marked sections as such.

Their aim is to provide affordable quality for the consumer – giving access to great technology, without necessarily having the break the bank. Though the do appeal to customers on a budget, that is far from their main focus – giving a broad range of brands and prices for all price brackets.

Internet Shopping

As the UK became more technology savvy, the Dixons group as a whole has suffered. As well as what were traditionally simply food retailers like Tesco and Sainsbury’s moving into the electronic market (often dealing with similar goods to Currys but mainly at cheaper prices), they have also had to deal with the growth of online competition from the likes of Amazon and even Play.com.

One of the main advantages Amazon and Play.com have is being able to structure their business in a way which is advantageous for their taxes – and, in effect, means that they can offer lower prices. On top of that, not having to pay staff for stores or rental on anything other than their warehouses (which they generally own) it means that their bottom line is minimal compared to Currys, a discount that is inevitably passed on to the customer.

Currys themselves have moved into the online shopping sphere, but not with the same amount of success. One of the main problems has been the sheer scale of Amazon. Though Currys do offer great deals on washing machines, computers and the like, many consumers simply go straight to Amazon due to the breadth of products they have available, and due to a perception that they generally offer the lowest prices.

Recent changes

In an attempt to win back customers, Currys have gone through various strategies in recent years, while sticking to their core market of low cost white goods and discounted computing hardware and software.

Currys PC World rebranded store

Currys PC World rebranding

Over recent years, some stores have been rebranded as Currys PC World – a reflection of the fact that both are owned by the Dixons group. In some cases, adjoining stores were physically merged together by the knocking through of walls, and all advertising for the electronics sides of both businesses has been brought together too.

Given that both are well recognised names – as well as a widespread public understanding that both share the same parent company – there has been little resistance to this change.

Death of the Currys High Street

Given the rather lean times the brand considers itself to be in, it was announced that over 100 Currys High Street stores would be allowed to have their leases lapse – in effect, closing them. This revelation was unveiled in 2007, with a few stores subsequently rebranded to Currys Digital. This naturally led to a complaints from local communities who feared further job losses at a time when the economy was going through a whole host of problems. However, declining sales made this a necessity.

Currys Black

In an attempt to play off the company’s famed customer service, Currys began opening stores branded as Currys Black. Aimed at the high end of the electronic retail spectrum, the trial store opened in Birmingham in 2010 and was designed with the aim of bringing in female shoppers – who felt alienated in normal Currys shops, according to market research. There currently appear to be no plans to open any further Currys Black stores.

Currys’ Customer Service

Though their business was originally built around the expanding role of technology in family life, it appears to be a double edged sword that has slowly ripped away their market share. In days gone by, the customer service and technological knowledge of those that worked in Currys stores was an important reason for any purchases made in store – now, thanks to the proliferation of online tutorials – as well as the cheaper prices available to those who shop on the web – the increase in computing knowledge among the wider public has negated what was previously one of their key selling points.

Currys Customer Service – 0843 504 0047

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