- Rolls Razor
Rolls Razor Limited was a British company, which had two reasons for being known: a sophisticated safety-
razor, and later an "affordable" twin-tub washing machine.
The eponymous product was a sophisticated safety-
razorwhich came in a metal box designed to allow the blade to be stropped against the lid and thus was not disposable, but unlike the straight razorit incorporated a safety guard and its size was closer to the early Gillette double blade disposable razor. The company wilted in the face of competition from the likes of Gillette
After launching his washing machine business on the back of newspaper adverts, entrepreneur
John Bloombought the moribund shell as a vehicle to grow his business.
Originally the machines were manufactured in
Holland, but later an assembly line was set up at the company’s factory in Cricklewood, London, where prospective customers could view the process. On the back of a heavy advertising campaign, and prices 50% below those found in shops retailing products by Hoover and Hotpoint, the machines were offered on hire purchasein light of the British Governmentrelaxing many restrictions on this type of finance. By 1962, Rolls had secured 10% of the market and was the third largest manufacturer of washing machines. Keen to further expand the business, it merged with the Colston company, founded by ex-Hoover director Sir Charles Colston, which made compact dishwashers, and concluded a deal to distribute Prestcold refrigerators.
The company listed on the
London Stock Exchangein mid-1962, at $3.50, with the price doubling in weeks. By the end of 1963, the company was selling over 200,000 machines a year.citeweb|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,939063,00.html?promoid=googlep|title=Trouble in Never-Never Land|publisher=Time Magazine|date=July 24, 1964|accessdate=2008-04-12] Marketing itself as Rolls-Prestcold, in 1963 it became the first commercial sponsor of the Royal Windsor Horse Show.
But the retailers and UK manufacturers were unhappy, and reduced their prices considerably to create the so-called Washing Machine War, between direct sales and retailers. In response Bloom was forced to increase his advertising costs just as sales began to fall, and was then hit by the 1964 postal strike which resulted in coupon returns drying up. Receipts from Rolls's customer hire purchase agreements were under written by
bankerSir Isaac Wolfson, who by mid-1964 had bankrolled the company with a $28 million loan. Spotting trouble, Sir Isaac withdrew his support and sped the downfall. With Bloom suspected of malpractice, the companies shares were suspended at $0.15 in mid-July 1964, before the company announced it would be placed into voluntary liquidation. Liquidators found thousands of unsold washing machines in warehouses, and after entering to made their report to shareholders to a chorus of Handel's "Dead March" from Saul, reported that the company had assets of $2,100,000, with creditors totalling $11 million, including: Tallent Engineering ($2,400,000); Pressed Steel Company($1,200,000), and Hawker Siddeley($151,000, for a DH.125 company plane).
Bloom came in for heavy criticism regarding his direct sales business practice. The London Stock Exchange resultantly asked member companies for more frequent and more thorough financial statements, which it formalised in later legislation.citeweb|url=http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,830608,00.html?promoid=googlep|title=The Doomsday Book|publisher=Time Magazine|date=4th September, 1964|accessdate=2008-04-12] Rolls Razor was subsequently a respondent company in a House of Lords judicial decision called "Barclays Bank Ltd v Quistclose Investments".The case was won by Quistclose Investments This was a
landmark casewhich created the Quistclose trust.
Manufacture continued with machines built by the engineering company Tallent (who built the company's dishwashers), who re-branded them as such briefly, but by 1965 the machines were marketed as Colstons before the appliance division of Tallent was taken over by the Italian firm Ariston in 1979. [citeweb|url=http://www.74simon.co.uk/adverts.html|title=Old Adverts - Rolls-Colston|publisher=Old Adverts|accessdate=2008-04-12]
Timeline of invention
* [http://www.geocities.com/Heartland/Pointe/3541/Rolls_Page.htm The Rolls Razor]
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