Tuesday, 14 June 2011


Percy Swain, (Grandfather of current Chairman), opened Smith Studios, a professional studio in Loughborough, Leics.  Eldest child, Ernest was born.
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.
As the Hunstanton business was successful, Ernest acquired that business from his father and opened a shop in Le Strange Terrace at Hunstanton.
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.
Ernest joined the RAF for the duration of the war, during which time his wife Ethel and sister-in-law Elsie operated the business.
Third child, Christopher was born (current Chairman) thus demonstrating that Ernest had achieved a local posting for the last few months of the war!!
Company formed - E E Swains (Camera Shops) Limited.
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.
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.
Chris Swain went to the Channel Islands to pursue his career in colour processing.
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.
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.
Peter Chambers (formerly Manager of Marketing Services for Polaroid UK) joined the company.
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).
Peter Chambers Became Sales Director
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)
Launch of private label brand "Memorie".
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.
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).
Alan Comer and Danny Williams were appointed Directors.  Peter Chambers changed his role to Commercial Director.  Arnold Markland retired.
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.
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.
First photo wholesale distributor in the UK to achieve Quality Standard ISO9002.
Chris' oldest daughter (Claire) joined business as Human Resources Manager.
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.
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.
Turnover exceeded £10 million for the first time.
Adjacent site purchased for further development.
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"
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.
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.
Swains Voice & Data Plc formed to operate the Swains Telecom operation.  Charles Wilson appointed Managing Director.

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