Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Swains


1910
Percy Swain, (Grandfather of current Chairman), opened Smith Studios, a professional studio in Loughborough, Leics.  Eldest child, Ernest was born.
1936
With sons Ernest and Arthur, in the business, it expanded to Hunstanton in Norfolk, the nearest seaside resort for Leics, where Ernest set up a beach photography operation.  Arthur stayed with Smiths Studios.
1937
As the Hunstanton business was successful, Ernest acquired that business from his father and opened a shop in Le Strange Terrace at Hunstanton.
1938
Ernest Swain moved premises to nearer the centre of the town on Westgate, Hunstanton where he took a double fronted shop known as a miniature camera specialist - featuring new products in 35mm.
1939
Ernest joined the RAF for the duration of the war, during which time his wife Ethel and sister-in-law Elsie operated the business.
1945
Third child, Christopher was born (current Chairman) thus demonstrating that Ernest had achieved a local posting for the last few months of the war!!
1951
Company formed - E E Swains (Camera Shops) Limited.
1956
Subsidiary operation "Norfolk Colour Laboratories" was opened and achieved the contract for the processing of Ferrania colour slide film.  (Thus Swains were processing in the UK before Kodak Ltd had opened their main plant at Hemel Hempstead.
1963
Ernest's wife died and with it, for the time being, all his interest in the business.  The processing business was allowed to die although by this time there were three retail shops known as Norfolk Camera Centres - the original in Hunstanton, one in King's Lynn and one in Norwich.
1964
Chris Swain went to the Channel Islands to pursue his career in colour processing.
1970
Chris returned to the family business which had then shrunk to one shop which was still locally important for professional and social photography.
(Chris was to learn the skills of professional photography, retailing and to take charge of a small frame manufacturing operation that was on site.
1975
Ernest decided to retire and with Chris took the decision to concentrate the business on the wholesaling operation.  The Wholesale operation was started on the premises adjacent to the Westgate shop from which Ernest had traded since 1938.
1976
Peter Chambers (formerly Manager of Marketing Services for Polaroid UK) joined the company.
1981
Company Purchased the former Council Offices in Hunstanton only a few hundred yards up the road in Westgate to which was added a warehouse facility.  The property was rechristened "Eastland House".  ("East from George Eastman, "Land" from Dr Land respectively founders of Kodak and Polaroid).
1984
Peter Chambers Became Sales Director
1985
Ernest Swain died and Chris added the responsibility of Chairman to his role as Managing Director, which he had held for ten years.
Arnold Markman joined the company.  (Formerly International Sales Manager - Pharmaceutical for 3M)
1986
Launch of private label brand "Memorie".
1988
Swains were approached by an international company who wished to set up a chain of wholesaler distribution centres throughout Europe of which they wanted Swains to be the first.  Although almost brought to fruition the tax situation for Chris Swains was such that he felt the project was not worthwhile, although bonds of friendship forged during the discussions remain strong to this day.
1989
These were severely tested when two of their senior managers left and joined Swains as Sales and Marketing Directors designate.  (Alan Comer, ex-Sales Managaer Fuji, Danny Wiliiams, formerly Sales & Marketing Manager, Hanimex).
1990
Alan Comer and Danny Williams were appointed Directors.  Peter Chambers changed his role to Commercial Director.  Arnold Markland retired.
1991
The recession started to bite the photographic industry and new strategies were determined enabling the business to grow more into distribution in addition to the now well established national wholesale operation.
Major office extension for Sales and Marketing offices.
Changed company name to "Swains International Plc".
Acquired the assets of Sirius International including the brand name of "Sirius" and "Clubman".
Appointed European distributor for Fotima.
1993
Appointed European distributor for Fotima.
Terry Carey joined (for a year) as Export Director.
Major new warehouse development to bring capacity up to 25,000 square feet.
Number two of Chris' four daughters (Abby) joined Sales Office.
Major contracts signed with almost all Russian Photo Optical manufacturers giving Swains exclusive distribution for a wide range of binoculars, telescopes, microscopes and night vision products.
Peter Chambers dropped his directorship and became a part-time Consultant.
1994
First photo wholesale distributor in the UK to achieve Quality Standard ISO9002.
Chris' oldest daughter (Claire) joined business as Human Resources Manager.
1995
Major contract signed with Kodak Ltd making Swains their Preferred Distributor for the Photo Specialist Retailer.  Kodak would recommend and only give transfer business to Swains.
1996
Financial year end showed significant growth with major increase in Kodak market share within the sector which necessitated further significant property development.
Roy Sealey (formerly Divisional Manager for Fuji Photo Film UK) joined company for market research project, leading to his appointment as Retail Development Manager.
Company joined "Investors in People" initiative.
Major technology investments in telecommunications and computer systems.
1997
Turnover exceeded £10 million for the first time.
Adjacent site purchased for further development.
1998
Claire Swains appointed to Board as Human Resources Director. 
Acquired Nikken Telecom, a telecommunications reseller.
Nikken Telecom reformed as Swains Telecom and Charles Wilson appointed Divisional Director.
Appointed Channel Distributors for Vodafone "Pas as you Talk"
1999
Adjacent site development completed increasing warehouse space, providing enhanced staff facilities including a Nursery which is also open to the public.  Total site occupied now approx. 40,000 square feet.
Long-term Distribution Contract signed with Kodak Ltd for sales and promotion of Kodak batteries.
Major upgrade to computer hardware and software to ensure Y2K and further future needs can be met and developed.
Turnover exceeded £20 million for the first time.
2000
Major Boardroom changes in April resulted in Chris Swain retaining his role as Chairman.  Alan Comer accepting the role of Managing Director and Roy Sealey accepting the role of Sales Director.
Abby Swain took on newly defined role as Digital Product Manager.
2002
Swains Voice & Data Plc formed to operate the Swains Telecom operation.  Charles Wilson appointed Managing Director.

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