Disking Computers is a retailer with a twist. MD Roger Smith talks to PCR about the retailer’s uniquely quirky approach to business.
Tell us about Disking Computers’ background
I started a public relations business in the electrical engineering industry. I bought a green screen word processor PC called a Superbrain, running the CPM OS and ‘wordstar’ on twin 5.25-inch diskettes.
Quickly, I filled all the foppy disks, so needed more.
Not having the faintest idea where to buy them, I organised three meetings in my local pub, with Verbatim, Maxell and Memorex. Who were the big players at the time. I had grand ideas of selling them, because if I didn’t know where to get them, no one else would, so I ordered thousands of each format, 5.25-inch and 8-inch.
I went home and started to panic. I knew that if I didn’t find the correct way to market these floppy disks, I’d be swimming not only in floppies, but in debt too.
I wanted to be king of the disks, I thought of the name
‘Disking’ so approached a design agency, had them design an ad, and placed it in ‘Practical Computing’ offering floppies by mail order, with next day delivery.
Forced to increase my income in this nail biting period, I was asked by one of my friends, to help out at the Birmingham IEC Exhibition centre, selling computers on his stand.
Wanting bespoke computers for our customers, we expanded into new premises, where we had workshop facilities. Mark my son, could now build exactly what the customer required. He’d learnt the trade from the ground up, as he had been with us from the beginning.
After it was founded, how did Disking Computers find its footing in the crowded retail market?
The two decades from 1978 right up to nearly 2000, the funding for our growth, came as a computer consumables and accessories supplier. As you will see from our full consumables and ‘Banana’ story to follow. These days, through the 1980s were enormous fun, and with so much being spent on computer diskettes, we used to run out of stock frequently. In fact, we attended exhibitions day by day because we had to return to base to replenish after only eight hours of trading. We broke through a turnover of £500,000. There were no real incentives to move into the more reduced gross margins of hardware, until we’d built the business model and platform so to do.
What is the ‘Banana story’?
We bet our major diskette supplier one night, we could continue riding this bubble of diskette sales, if we branded them ‘Banana ‘– so we did.
We launched two sizes: 5.25-inches and 3.5-inches along with branded freebies, including inflatable bananas, badges, carrier bags, lorries – you name it. We ‘Banana’d’ it.
We provided incentives for both consumers and computer shops, so upon seeing our left-field adverts, queued up to become ‘Banana’ dealers.
How does Disking Computers go about selling to its target consumer market?
Today, as in every one of our 12,000 days of trading, since 1978, we’re happy to be helping our clients with their IT issues. Our staff are trained and updated monthly, with all the latest advances in our complex IT world, so our clients don’t have to worry. They can simply leave it to us. Our customers are always satisfied with our services and grateful for our expertise.
We’re here for them, and we know how frustrated they can get when things don’t work as they should. In fact, one of our service engineers whilst on-site to fix a customer’s computer was invited to join them for a beef casserole dinner.
Year established: 1978
Number of staff: 25
Address: Unit 10 Beaver Industrial Estate, Liphook Hampshire, GU30 7EU