Retail

Published: June 22, 2022 | Updated: June 23, 2022

Music to their ears as customers praise £80k refit at the UK’s oldest Bang & Olufsen dealer

Kevin Dawson, Managing Director, Dawsons (right) and Dean Reeves, Director, in the refitted showroom. Picture: Dorset Biz News.
By Andrew Diprose, editor

Its name is synonymous with Westbourne – and audio visual.

And little wonder.

Dawsons has been a constant feature since George Dawson, the great grandfather of current MD Kevin, first began selling cat’s whisker crystal radio sets in 1927.

Ninety-five years later and the UK’s oldest Bang & Olufsen (B&O) dealer is sporting a brand-new look after undergoing a refit costing around £80,000.

Not just reaffirming its commitment to Westbourne but also demonstrating that a showroom experience can still thrive in these days of internet shopping.

Dawsons, which began life in Seamoor Road before moving to its present Poole Road site in 1998, was closed for five weeks while the extensive work was carried out.

It included new flooring, electrics, shopfront, signage and colour scheme.

Kevin, who joined the business in 1980 at the age of 17, said: “It was well worth the wait.

“The reaction from customers has genuinely been ‘Wow, we can’t believe the difference’.

“It’s nothing short of a transformation.”

The business became a Bang & Olufsen dealer, along with selling other brands, in 1964.

Kevin, 59, took the decision to go totally B&O in 2000.

He said: “If you cut me in half, I am Mr B&O.

“I’ve always had it at home and I love the brand.

“I live and breathe it so it wasn’t too difficult for me to say, I won’t do anything else.

“Having been to the factory loads of times I like the whole concept, from design to delivering the product.

“Take the remote control which is £300.

“You think ‘Yes, it looks and it feels nice’.

“But when you’ve seen it being made from a single block of aluminium, and the tooling it goes through, the polishing and the colouring, I actually come away thinking how do they do it for the money?”

Leaving school with two O-levels – “I was terrible at school and couldn’t wait to leave” – Kevin’s career destiny soon became clear.

He said: “Dad said to me ‘Don’t expect to come into the business’ so I worked at a number of places first.

“They included as a cellar boy at the Catherine Wheel pub in St Catherine’s Hill, Christchurch.

“Even there the Manager said to me: ‘I’ve never employed a lad of your age who has got such an eye for detail’.

“It’s because I stacked the bottles and always had the labels facing forward.

“Then I worked as a petrol attendant in a BP station where they had a promotion, giving away little figures.

“They had a glass cabinet and, again, I lined everything up and had it sectioned off.

“I received another commendation with the guy saying that I was really good on the retail side and sales had gone up.

“I had got the bug for sales.”

After working for another TV and audio company in Southbourne, Kevin joined the family firm working for the first two years on installations.

Even there his love of selling came out.

He said: “I liked it but only because I was in customers’ homes and I found it easier to sell things.

“Forty years later and I still get the same buzz now from sales.

“Our cheapest product is a £169 Bluetooth speaker and I still get as much enjoyment from selling that as a £160,000 deal.”

Alongside sales, the seven-strong Dawsons team, pictured, also offer design and installation.

The company was one of the first to offer home cinemas with projectors in the early 1980s, specialising in discrete installations.

Kevin said: “When we started doing cinema properly you could count on one hand how many dealers were doing it in the UK.

“We went far and wide.

“The amount of people we had this side of the Midlands, London and the West Country was huge.

“Our stamp was keeping things discrete. I don’t think I’ve ever done a cinema room with visible speakers.”

Now one of 32 Bang & Olufsen dealers in the UK, Kevin, pictured left, said that from fearing the worst for the business during the pandemic, the past two years had actually exceeded expectations.

He said: “I’ve never met so many new people to the area and so many high net worth individuals that have decamped from London and bought property on the coast.

“There’s still a place for businesses like us.

“As one customer said to me only last week: ‘It’s so nice to deal with a showroom and get the benefit of experience’.

“That to me is what it’s all about.

“I want to give shoppers an experience they’ll remember, whether I’m demonstrating headphones or a big television.

“I want them to go away with a memory of being treated like a customer should be.”