Richard Roberts succeeded his father as Chairman and Managing Director, and under his leadership the Company has judiciously broadened its range of products. Around 1973 it became evident to him that Britain's television manufacturers, still fully occupied with satisfying the mass demand for colour receivers created by the transition to a full colour service in November 1969, were not fully exploiting the upper end of the market. Though by this time many receivers were giving excellent pictures, under the pressure of competition they tended to be fitted with cheap loudspeakers and housed in run-of-the-mill cabinets. Imported luxury models were available, but their cabinets were not always to the taste of British buyers, nor were their circuits always satisfactorily modified to British transmission characteristics. Here, then, was an opportunity for the Company to apply to a new field the marketing philosophy that had served it so well for radio.
Planning throughout 1974 led to the formation in May 1975 of a new company, Roberts Video Ltd, also led by Richard Roberts. Two receivers were launched in September, using the Philips G8 and G9 chassis with a number of extra features: remote control, twin loudspeakers and tone controls; the cabinets were veneered in real teak and fitted with sliding tambour doors.
Dealerships were offered to all Roberts Radio franchised dealers, initially on the same terms as applied to portable radios: a discount of 30% on the recommended retail price (RRP), with no additional discount for quantity. The following year, however, with the Price Commission investigating the cost of small electrical goods, the Radio Electrical and Television Retailers Association (RETRA) withdrew its approval of RRP. Roberts Video was the first manufacturer to respond, dropping RRP and offering modest quantity-discounts. This was an astute move, for it won the Company honourable mentions in The Times and in the trade press.
Roberts Video showed steady growth from its first year of trading, when 2,500 receivers were sold, and it was against this background of successful diversification that Roberts Radio acquired Dynatron Radio Ltd from Philips in January 1981. Established by the Hacker brothers, Ron and Arthur, in 1927, Dynatron had arrived in the Philips (old via the takeover chain Dynatron-Ekco-Pye-Philips. Us name had long been associated with high-quality television and audio, making it an ideal complement to the Roberts Radio marque, and the Roberts Video brand was subsequently replaced by Dynatron. Using the same marketing and sales organisation as Roberts, Dynatron continues to sell full-specification television receivers in a variety of reproduction and modern styles through approximately 700 retail outlets in the UK.
Roberts Radio has also acquired the firm of A E Kevern Ltd which has made its cabinets ever since 1932. Originally in London's Goswell Road. Kevern's moved to Haverhill, Suffolk in the 1960s under a government re-location scheme. There had long been an understanding between the two companies that, should Kevern's ever wish to sell out, Roberts Radio would have first refusal, and in 1977 this offer was made and accepted. Administered from East Molesey, Kevern's nevertheless retains considerable autonomy, and devotes around 25% of its effort to contracts for other firms. Shortly after this acquisition the group's total workforce rose to over 300.
Of recent years. Royal Warrants have again figured prominently in the Company's affairs. In 1978/9 Richard Roberts had the distinction of serving as President of the Royal Warrant Holders Association, while the Roberts Radio Company has been granted two further Warrants, in 1982 and 1985 respectively, as manufacturers and suppliers of radio receivers to H M Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother and to HRH The Prince of Wales. In 1981 the Warrant granted to Dynatron Radio Ltd in 1963 as suppliers of televisions and radio-gramophones to H M The Queen was transferred to that company's new owners.
One Roberts' dealer invokes a quite different link with the monarchy to promote a battery-only MW/LW model: "A very high quality receiver. Ideal for HMP". It is indeed. In Her Majesty's Prisons, only radios without vhf. telescopic aerials or mains lead are allowed, while the dearth of other entertainment puts a premium on good performance. However, any suspicion that the set was aimed at this market is dispelled by its name: Rambler 2.
Selling only through accredited dealers has become something of a rarity in the age of the discount warehouse, but works well for Roberts Radio, whose prospective customer is likely to be less concerned with shopping around for the lowest price than with knowing that should the set ever go wrong he will have no difficulty in having it put right. The dealer is assured of his fair profit and knows that his accreditation enhances the shop's prestige, while the Company secures prominent display of its products at the point of sale.
Roberts Radio's uncompromising insistence on quality has endured, though it has had to be adapted to current conditions. Thus plastic-cased receivers and personal cassette players are imported from the far east, but are built to specifications meeting the Company's standards of performance, styling and finish. However, wooden-eased receivers still predominate, and these continue to be made at East Molesey. The latest of them is a synthesizer model with channel storage, giving perfect tuning at a touch. It exemplifies the judicious blending of tradition and innovation that has always characterized Roberts Radio, and that augurs well for its future.
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