In the beginning
Founded in 1937 in a lock-up garage in London, Radiospares started life as a distributor of radio parts and associated products. Our company had the simple objective to provide replacement parts as they were needed. From its very earliest days, Radiospares was dedicated to a single purpose: service excellence.
Our founders' mission was to provide a replacement part for every situation, so they were always open to adding additional products to their offerings. When televisions became popular, television parts were added to Radiospares' product list. By the end of the war, the small local company had evolved into a much larger national distribution business.
Keeping ahead of new developments
In the 1950s, Radiospares expanded its distribution to the industrial sector. In 1967, the company was floated on the London Stock Exchange as Electrocomponents PLC. To reflect the much wider range of products beyond radio parts that were being offered by 1971, Radiospares was renamed RS Components.
By 1981, our market value had risen to £60 million, and in 1984 we made the decision to centralise our operations at a newly constructed mega warehouse in Corby. This facility had been built to become our main warehouse and it would hold and distribute the bulk of our electronics and maintenance product range. By 1995, we stocked 58,000 different product lines, and any product on our shelves could be shipped on the same day the order was placed, ensuring that customers could receive their product the next day.
This next-day service was a major aspect of RS Components' success. The ability to stock a large array and quantity of electronics and maintenance products, and our dedication to quick turnaround won us the loyalty of a large customer base. Our rapid growth resulted in the opening of an additional 500,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility in Nuneaton, UK, in 1997, which remains our global logistics centre to this day.
Supporting engineers all over the world
During the 1990s, RS Components started expanding into international markets. Through an acquisition strategy, we soon had an established presence throughout Europe and Asia.
This process began in 1990 with the acquisition of Verospeed, a distribution company with operations in France and Austria. In the next two years, RS start-ups opened in Germany, Denmark and Italy. By 1996, RS Components' global network reached as far as South Africa, Singapore, New Zealand and Chile.
The year 1997 marked our major expansion into Asia, with the opening of a regional distribution centre in Singapore. RS Components also opened an office in Hong Kong, as well as six regional offices across China. In 1999, RS Japan was established, becoming the first business in the electronics industry to offer small-order, high-service distribution in the Japanese market. Throughout this period, a number of in-market warehouses were also established to provide local market support and deliver on our same-day dispatch, on-time delivery service promise.
Leveraging the power of eCommerce
In 2000, Electrocomponents joined the FTSE 100 Index of the UK's largest companies. Around this time, we embraced technology, starting in 1998 with the launch of a fully transactional B2B website, an industry first that facilitated faster, easier ordering of electronics and maintenance products around the clock.
Our online channel experienced tremendous uptake from customers, with Internet sales growing by over 50% year on year from 2001 to 2002. In 2002, Electrocomponents expanded its online offering with the launch of a free e-Procurement service called urchasingManager™. This easy-to-implement tool enabled businesses to save time and money by freeing up their procurement specialists to focus on more strategic tasks. We soon followed up with more digital innovations including a 3D CAD model library and the launch of our award-winning tools, DesignSpark and DesignSpark PCB. These practical design tools helped engineers to
work more efficiently.
By the end of the decade, RS Components had unveiled a new industry-standard packaging offer across the UK, Europe and Asia Pacific. This new service was designed to cater to the small batch production needs of engineers.
In 2011, we achieved yet another industry first with the launch of RS Infinity, a B2B loyalty programme. Now offering a product and service portfolio to support the entire product lifecycle from R&D through pre-production to maintenance and repair, we were shipping in excess of 44,000 parcels on the same day the orders were received. This speed and efficiency resulted in RS Components receiving the 'Operational Excellence Award' at the prestigious Supply Chain Distinction Awards.
So far in 2012, we have been recognised with Britain's most coveted business award, the 'Queen's Award for Enterprise', and the 'Best eCommerce Distributor 2012' at ESM China Distributor Awards.