Dick Smith (retailer)

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This article is about electronics retailer. For the company's founder, see Dick Smith (entrepreneur). For other uses, see Dick Smith.
Dick Smith Holdings Limited
Industry Retail
Founded 1968
Headquarters Chullora, New South Wales, Australia
Key people
Phillip Cave (Non Exec. Chairman)
Nick Abboud, CEO
Products Consumer electronics
Number of employees
Website www.dicksmith.com.au
An original Dick Smith Electronics store in Wagga Wagga, New South Wales

Dick Smith Holdings Limited (formerly Dick Smith, Dick Smith Electronics or DSE) is a major retailer of consumer electronics, founded in 1968 by Richard "Dick" Smith.

On 4 December 2013, Dick Smith became a public company,[1] ASX code: DSH.[2] Formerly it was 98% owned by private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners (the remaining 2% was owned by some board members and senior management) which acquired it on 26 November 2012, from Woolworths Limited, which owned it from 1982 until the end of November 2012. Founder Dick Smith takes no part in the running of the company.[3]

Growth of company[edit]

The business started as a small car radio installation business in the Sydney suburb of Artarmon, New South Wales, and has expanded to 329 stores across Australia and New Zealand plus 30 'sub stores' in David Jones stores as well as a developed online presence. The company plans to open 14 additional stores in 2014. Dick Smith Holdings employs over 3,700 people. Total retail sales for the 2012/2013 financial year was in excess of $1.3 billion.[3]

Alliance with David Jones[edit]

From 1 October 2013, Dick Smith took over the operation of the electronics departments in 30 David Jones retail stores in Australia, and online. The venture was created by the use of a Retail Brand Management Agreement (RBMA). The RBMA allows Dick Smith to economically extend its network of stores and operates under the banner ‘David Jones Electronics Powered by Dick Smith’.[3]


Dick Smith sponsors the Melbourne Stars in the T20 Big Bash League cricket, a number of tennis tournaments including The Hopman Cup (Western Australia), The World Tennis Challenge (South Australia), The Brisbane International (Queensland) and The Apia International (Sydney).[4]

The company also sponsors the National Rugby League nine-a-side tournament, the Auckland Nines[4] and is a support sponsor of AFL club, Richmond, having been a co-sponsor from 2008 until the end of 2011.[5]


The business started in 1968 in the Sydney suburb of Artamon,in a small rented premises beneath a car park, with a total capital of only $610. Initially the business focused on installing and servicing car radios. In 1969, the business's success required it to move to bigger premises on the Pacific Highway in St Leonards.

Alongside the car radio business, Dick opened "Dick Smith Wholesale", initially in a house in St Leonards. The business catered for electronics hobbyists, meeting a need Dick (himself a keen hobbyist) had felt. In those days, hobbyists could only buy components from larger wholesale companies better set up for dealing with commercial customers. After touring overseas electronic stores to study modern merchandising methods, Smith introduced self-serve shopping and produced a mail-order annual catalogue with a substantial data section. To ensure almost every electronic enthusiast in Australia had one of his catalogues, it was included free in the popular electronics magazines, Electronics Australia and Electronics Today International. The catalogues included ever-increasing amounts of data on electronic components, which helped make it an essential reference for anyone involved in electronics professionally or as a hobby. This catalogue is no longer being produced, the last issue being 2009.

On 31 January 2012, Woolworths Limited announced that after the results of a strategic review it would close up to 100 Dick Smith stores and sell the business.[6]

On 27 September 2012, Woolworths announced that the private equity firm Anchorage Capital Partners would purchase Dick Smith Electronics for $20M[7] with the transition between Woolworths and Anchorage being finalised on 27 November 2012.[citation needed]


At one stage the company was promoted through its annual catalogue, wacky ads and publicity stunts. For example, Smith claimed that he would tow an iceberg from Antarctica to Sydney Harbour, cut it up into small bits and sell it. However, he instead towed a man-made iceberg, constructed on a barge, with a big sheet of white plastic and fire-fighting foam as an April Fool's joke.[8] The profile of Dick Smith Electronics grew.[9]


A Dick Smith Wizzard – a combination computer/video game console that was rebranded and sold through the stores

The company profited from the CB radio boom of the 1970s and by the end of the decade had stores in all mainland states. Though many CB radio stores closed when interest waned from the early 1980s, Dick Smith Electronics survived thanks to strong sales in other areas. These included its established electronic components and kit lines, Yaesu amateur radio (the company had secured the exclusive dealership)[citation needed] and Uniden-Bearcat scanners.

The company was an early retailer of brand name personal computers such as the Commodore VIC-20 and Commodore 64. It also sold own-brand models, such as the System 80 which was compatible with the Tandy TRS-80 Model I, the Dick Smith Cat (an Apple II clone), the VZ-200 and VZ-300. In 1981, the Super-80 kit computer was developed as a joint venture between the company and Electronics Australia magazine.[10]

The company expanded its product range, especially during the 1970s and 1980s and stocked items such as the Heathkit electronic kits, satellite TV receiving stations, Beeple pagers and the Dick Smith Wizzard computer game. The company was an early seller of telephone equipment including answering machines, cordless and novelty phones.

The Woolworths takeover and range changes[edit]

In 1980, the company had grown to 20 stores and the company's working capital was so much that he sold 60% of the company's working share to Woolworths Limited. Smith sold the balance to Woolworths in 1982 and it took full ownership of the company.[11] The company continued to add to its network of small "main street" stores in suburbs and regional cities across Australia. Today there are about 200 company-owned Dick Smith Electronics stores, with authorised stockists in country areas. Though the company has almost always stocked items that would appeal to the general non-technical/non-hobbyist consumer, as the years went on these items took up an increasing proportion of floor space.

After rapid growth in the 1970s and 1980s, Tandy stagnated and suffered management problems at its USA headquarters. Woolworths purchased Tandy in 2001–2002, so that both Tandy and Dick Smith became part of the same group. With the takeover, some Tandy stores were closed while others became Dick Smith Electronics stores. Both stores had overlaps in their product range with DSE (Dick Smith Electronics) products being available in Tandy outlets.


The logo used for Dick Smith PowerHouse stores before the branding was discontinued in 2009

The late 1990s saw the company establish "Dick Smith Electronics Powerhouse" super-stores across the east-coast of Australia. The first PowerHouse store was opened in Bankstown, New South Wales, in 1996.[12] These were several times bigger than regular stores and contained departments for the main product categories and supermarket-style checkouts. The "Powerhouses", as they were known, carried a wider range of products than the smaller DSE stores, especially in the computing, audio-visual and amateur radio areas, and introduced Music to the range. Some installation services were also introduced as well as Computer repairs and upgrading.

In 2002–2003, the Powerhouse concept changed to focus on a broader consumer market and less towards electronics enthusiasts. Component ranges shrank and general electronics books ceased to be stocked. The Yaesu dealership was relinquished, ending a 27-year partnership. Electronic Kits were transferred to the smaller DSE stores and were replaced by small appliances such as kettles, coffeemakers, toasters and frypans which were removed in late 2008. In late 2007, Powerhouse stores also transferred many other small components, tools, leads and connectors continuing to distance the super-stores from the company's roots.

In 2007, Dick Smith Powerhouse stores introduced a home installation service known as "PowerSquad" to install major items such as TVs and Computer systems or to provide set-up and training on smaller items such as wireless networks and MP3 players.[13] The Powerhouse name was retired in 2009 as part of the company's re-branding. These stores are now known internally as Dick Smith "Large Format". The home installation service was relaunched in 2009 as "Mobile Techxpert Services" and again as "Clever Dick" in 2012, inline with the company's new branding.

2008 rebranding[edit]

Hornsby DSE, housed inside Westfield Hornsby, was the first store to be renovated under the new concept

In early 2008, following Woolworths' review of its consumer electronics division, Dick Smith Electronics renovated its flagship store in Hornsby, New South Wales, as a "concept" under the branding "Dick Smith Technology". The store's design and product range was completely reworked incorporating a more modern feel while removing all electrical componentry and much of its tools. These products were replaced with a larger range of computers, gaming, televisions and Macintosh computers, much of which had previously been only sold in Powerhouse stores. After a dramatic increase in sales for the store, the Hornsby concept store ended the Christmas period of sales as the highest-selling Dick Smith Electronics store in the country.[citation needed]

Inside the first Dick Smith concept store Hornsby DSE following its rebranding as Dick Smith Technology

Following further strategic review, the company decided to push forward with the new concept under the reworked "Dick Smith – Talk to the Techxperts" branding, merging all existing Dick Smith Electronics and Powerhouse stores under the same banner. In late 2008 the new Dick Smith logo (designed by Hoyne Design) and format was rolled out with many Powerhouse stores such as Macquarie Centre and Auburn being rebranded to fit the new unified company logo. Powerhouse stores also cleared the majority of their small appliance lines in favour of electronic gadgets, toys and health devices with a new line of exercise equipment introduced to selected stores in early 2009. While some stores still remain semi-branded or full branded as Powerhouse, the advertising of this brand has discontinued and these stores are pending store refits to update the branding.

Newly branded Dick Smith outlet in the Sturt Mall, Wagga Wagga

As of 2012 Powerhouse style stores, now "Large Format Stores", opened in Chadstone Shopping Centre and Bendigo in Victoria, Marion, South Australia, Perth central business district, Innaloo and Rockingham in Western Australia, Hobart in Tasmania, and Stockland Rockhampton in Queensland, under new "Dick Smith – Talk to the Techxperts" branding. The new format stores had a refreshed look and logo, carried a similar range as all other Powerhouse stores minus the electrical components, plugs and sockets, with more of a focus on technology such as computers, entertainment and communications. In March 2009, Woolworths Limited CEO Michael Luscombe confirmed the end of Powerhouse as a separate entity, also adding that the company's third consumer electronics brand Tandy would gradually phase out over the next three years as the stores' leases ended. This phase left "Dick Smith" as the sole brand in the company's consumer electronics division.[14]

The Dick Smith brand[edit]

Dick Smith Electronics has also long been known for its "home brand" range of electronics which fall under the brand name "Dick Smith" (formally called DSE, a commonly used abbreviation of Dick Smith Electronics). Although initially, in the 1980s, DSE branding focused on phones, telephony equipment and some components, the brand has since expanded into a large range of various electronic devices and components with less focus on telephony. In 2007 the DSE brand produced a wide range of products including portable DVD players, TV set-top boxes, aerials, AV receivers and amplifiers, NiCad and NiMH Rechargeable batteries as well as alkaline and lithium batteries, digital cameras, speakers, flash-memory devices, UHF radios, webcams and Ethernet, Crossover, USB, Composite AV, Component AV, 240V AC cables.[15]

A number of the DSE brand products were re-branded products from third party manufacturers and are often sold alongside their original manufacturers version of the product. An example of this is DSE's SD card range which are manufactured by A-DATA and sold alongside A-DATA's own SD cards in many stores. Other Dick Smith house brands were Shimasu, Digitor and Koolshades, the 1990s youth brand.

Outside Australia[edit]

New Zealand[edit]

In New Zealand, Dick Smith Electronics has over 75 locations[16] including the "PowerHouse" stores, the first opening in Hamilton, then Manukau, followed by Sylvia Park in Auckland, and Palmerston North. A third brand "Dick Smith Technology" store has also opened in Lower Hutt, following the same PowerHouse product range. Its e-commerce website uses a search engine by SLI Systems that learns from what the users search for.[17] The "Talk to the Techxperts" now "Dick Does" rebranding has commenced in New Zealand, including at the Westfield Riccarton new concept store, which opened on 28 May 2009.


For some years, Woolworths (former parent company of Dick Smith) and the Tata Group of India operated an electronics-retailing venture on the subcontinent. The business was eventually sold in September 2012.[18]

United States[edit]

For a period of time Dick Smith operated a small number of stores in the United States but these were divested.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mason, Max (5 December 2013). "Dick Smith flat after underwhelming debut". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  2. ^ "Dick Smith Holdings Limited". ASX. Australian Securities Exchange. 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  3. ^ a b c "Dick Smith Holdings Limited Prospectus". Dick Smith. Dick Smith Holdings Limited. 2013. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  4. ^ a b "Sponsorships". Dick Smith. Dick Smith Holdings Limited. 2013. Retrieved 7 December 2013. 
  5. ^ Wilson, Caroline (24 February 2011). "Tigers still searching for major guernsey sponsor". The Age. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 
  6. ^ "Woolworths to sell Dick Smith Electronics"
  7. ^ "Woolworths sells Dick Smith to private equity"
  8. ^ http://www.abc.net.au/queensland/conversations/stories/s1614826.htm%7Cpublisher=Australian Broadcasting Corporation|date=12 April 2006|title=Businessman and adventurer Dick Smith|accessdate=2009-03-30
  9. ^ "Just tip of the iceberg". Sydney Morning Herald. 23 March 2004. Retrieved 2007-12-09. 
  10. ^ Super-80 Computer. (August 1981). Electronics Australia, p. 70.
  11. ^ "DSE About Us Page". DSE Ltd. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  12. ^ "Retailing Supernova: Dick Smith's new PowerHouse". Retrieved 2012-04-07. 
  13. ^ "PowerSquad Website". Retrieved 2009-01-15. [dead link]
  14. ^ "Woolies sets deadline for Powerhouse and Tandy brands". Connected Australia. 9 March 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07. 
  15. ^ "DSE Brand Range Search". DSE Ltd. Retrieved 2007-12-19. 
  16. ^ "Store Locations". DSE (NZ) Ltd. Retrieved 2013-09-24. 
  17. ^ "News – E-commerce Search". S.L.I. Systems. 
  18. ^ Zappone, Chris (27 September 2012). "Woolworths finds buyer for Dick Smith". Sydney Morning Herald. Fairfax Media. Retrieved 8 December 2013. 

External links[edit]