Radio Rentals

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Radio Rentals
IndustryDomestic appliance rentals
Founded1930; 94 years ago (1930) in Brighton, Sussex, UK
FounderPercy Perring-Thoms
Defunct2000 (2000)
FateMerged with Granada Limited

Radio Rentals was founded in 1930[1] by Percy Perring-Thoms in Brighton, Sussex, UK, to rent out radio sets, with a turnover in the first year of £780 (equivalent to £52,463 in 2021). It later offered televisions and videorecorders for rent.

In 1964 it merged with RentaSet, Joseph Robinson's similarly formed company.[1] Then, in 1968, it was acquired by Thorn Electrical Industries and joined with Thorn's DER chain (founded 1938) as part of Thorn Television Rentals (TTR), though the two companies were run completely separately, with different staff and vehicles.

Two other, smaller High Street TV rental companies were also acquired/established by the Thorn Television Rentals group: these being Multi-Broadcast and the even smaller company Vistavison (not to be confused with Visionhire). Very little is known today about these two rental companies: in the 1970s they were well-known names on the British High Street but have long since vanished along with Radio Rentals.

The last Baird TV models that were supplied by Radio Rentals to contain a genuine Baird (rather than a Thorn)-manufactured chassis was the dual-standard (405 and 625-line) 710 series. Legend has it that in the 1970s, Radio Rentals was the only TV rental company under the TTR umbrella who were allowed to produce full (from floor to waist) height cabinets on castors. The other companies had to use more squat cabinets placed on stands.

In 1980 TTR and thus Radio Rentals became part of the merged Thorn EMI, and in 2000 it merged with Granada Limited to form Boxclever. The company still trades as Radio Rentals in Australia.

United Kingdom[edit]

Radio Rentals operated mainly in the UK, having started life in Boyces Street, Brighton, Sussex, England. The growth of BBC Television and then ITV after the Second World War encouraged more people to want TV sets, but they were expensive, creating an opportunity for Radio Rentals and its competitors to offer them at a monthly rental price which was much more affordable.

With the coming of colour services, initially only on BBC2, a further opportunity for renting was created. On 15 November 1969 colour broadcasts on both BBC channels and the ITV network became available from the main transmitter sites around the UK. This led to a boom in rentals of TV sets.

By the late 1970s videorecorders had appeared on the market, but at first they were expensive. Only 5% of UK households had videorecorders in 1980. Radio Rentals elected to offer Baird branded JVC VHS machines from 1977 onwards.

With the advent of satellite broadcasting in the 1980s Radio Rentals offered a range of equipment for rent, enabling more viewers to watch both Sky Television services and British Satellite Broadcasting services (these broadcasters later merged to form British Sky Broadcasting).

Radio Rentals also offered a small range of white goods, mainly from Philips/Whirlpool.

Radio Rentals claimed that at its peak it had more than two million customers, more than 500 shops, 3,600 technicians, 2,700 skilled installers and a large ancillary staff. It had sales and service locations across the UK, the Radio Rentals logo being a common sight on many High Streets.

The urge to rent instead of buy reduced as domestic electronics became cheaper and more reliable, with greater use of integrated circuits and improved design. The company went through many restructurings, shedding staff and rebranding itself. In common with other rental brands, it could not sustain a viable business model and ceased to trade, merging with Granada Limited's rental arm in 2000 to form Boxclever.


Radio Rentals Australia logo

Thorn operated over 90 Radio Rentals stores within Australia, and 28 stores in New Zealand under the name DTR. Radio Rentals stores in South Australia trade under the name RR Rentlo Reinvented due to an independent business trading as Radio Rentals. An independently owned chain operated 19 stores within South Australia; however is not in any way related to Radio Rentals owned by Thorn Australia Pty Ltd, and was placed into administration in 2019 and closed its stores including areas like Queensland. Radio Rentals also closed all its stores in 2020 but continues to trade.

The Australian branch of Radio Rentals began in 1937 with the opening of a single store on Market Street, Sydney.[2] Since this date, Radio Rentals continued to expand and open stores across Australia, including the launch of 'Rentlo' in South Australia. In April 2015 Rentlo was rebranded to RR Rentlo Reinvented. Radio Rentals is a household appliance, technology and furniture rental service. Today, Radio Rentals and RR Rentlo Reinvented have more than 90 stores Australia wide and more than 500 employees. The Australian stores continued to trade under the Thorn Group, with James Marshall as the current CEO and managing director, appointed in 2014.[3] On 23 April 2020, due to the COVID-19 induced retail downturn, Radio Rentals announced the permanent closure of its 62 bricks-and-mortar stores and selected warehouses, continuing as a purely online business.[4]

In 2008, the Thorn Group, who operates Radio Rentals, launched Big Brown Box; an online retailer of brown goods and consumer technology gadgets.[5] The site later expanded to include computers and whitegoods. Thorn Group decided to offload the business in November 2010, with the CEO, John Hughes, saying that while Thorn Group "still believes strategically in online and the potential of" the company had to take a pragmatic view on the business given the group's limited resources.[6] Big Brown Box was later purchased and relaunched by Appliances Online[citation needed].

Centrepay controversy[edit]

In 2015, a report by Credit Suisse found that for the financial year 2014/15, A$90 million of Radio Rentals and RR Rentlo Reinvented Australia's total revenue of A$197 million came from payments made by government benefit recipients using the Commonwealth Department of Human Services direct debit Centrepay system. The report also stated that around half of this amount, approximately A$45 million, related to the purchase of entertainment items such as smart phones and televisions.[7]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Radio Rentals Staff Handbook
  2. ^ "About Us | Rental Information | Radio Rentals".
  3. ^ "Thorn Group Limited | Executive Team". Archived from the original on 20 March 2014. Retrieved 20 March 2014.
  4. ^ Blake, Dean (23 April 2020). "Radio Rentals shutting stores permanently as COVID-19 takes its toll". Inside Retail. Retrieved 23 April 2020.
  5. ^ "Big Brown Box Set to Kickstart Online Retail War - Smarthouse". Archived from the original on 28 September 2011.
  6. ^ "Radio Rentals owner to exit online retail site".
  7. ^ Taylor, Josie (20 March 2015). "Radio Rentals made $90m from Centrelink payments last year". ABC News. Australian Broadcasting Corporation. Retrieved 17 May 2020.

External links[edit]