Snellings are different and proud of it. What’s more thousands of satisfied customers keep them going. People expect to hunt for lawn mower specialists out in the country, not to mention boat builders in the Broads, but not a television showroom and service centre. Ever since Roy Snelling started in 1954 every piece of promotional paper has carried the same clear map showing people where to find his business. He’s still there!
R C Snelling, now the biggest TV rental and sales company between Norwich and the sea, was built on faith in the future and a keen understanding of product and clientele. The saga began in 1938, two years after the young Billy Butlin set up his first revolutionary holiday camp, when 14 year old Roy Snelling, mad keen on the wireless, started his apprenticeship with a Wireless Technician. It was then the brave new world of the 1930s when the wireless was at the cutting edge of technology and the Great Depression was fading into memory except in the old heavy industry based towns of the North. Although private pilots still navigated their aircraft by following railway lines the more go ahead airlines, such BOAC, were installing radio R/T sets in their aircraft and the services were following suit as fast as funds allowed.
The Wireless was definitely part of the future and a wise choice for an ambitious lad keen to acquire a worthwhile trade. Not unexpectedly that assured well planned world came to an end with the outbreak of World War Two in 1939. The modernised forces snapped up every skilled wireless operator and mechanic to operate signals sections and to train new entrants. Roy Snelling, in common with hundreds of others like him, was left in the lurch to carry on as best he could using books and manuals to learn his trade. As soon as he became 18 the Army took over his training following which he served in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers (REME), known to generations of soldiers as Ruin Everything Mechanical Eventually.
Although a Hostilities Only National Serviceman he was not discharged until 1947 when he returned to his original employers to repair wireless sets which, with gramophones, comprised the ultimate in home entertainment for a growing audience. As more and more homes aspired to wireless sets which had formed part of wartime factory and barracks life Roy Snelling aspired to run his own show in catering for the market of the future.
In 1954 the thirty year old Roy Snelling, supported by his mother, grasped the nettle and bought his first premises for his new business. The redundant Victorian laundry of Blofield Hall was purchased for £400, then over a years pay for many people. In the first three months he took a total of £8 at a time when shop assistants and office staff were starting on around £2 a week. His critics laughed at someone hoping to attract business away from a town to a hut lacking a shop window in a village with infrequent bus services.
Shoppers today are glad to avoid, whenever possible, the transport and shopping hassles that go with living in the country and going to any large town for supplies. A visit to Snellings below the 100 foot mast involves a drive through pleasant country with ample free parking by the shop door and a choice that rivals any major town showroom. The one thing that has not changed since the days of the old laundry sixty odd years ago is the standard of service which comes from a company whose reins are still handled by its founder.
To achieve this Roy Snelling worked with all the passion and enthusiasm of the conscientious pioneer. He worked seven days a week, usually for sixteen hours at a stretch, to turn his personal dream into reality, aided and abetted by his mother who fed and watered him as he built up the business. Early publicity leaflets invited the public to consider installing a TV receiving set for which he offered the first class service of one with fifteen years of expertise. He further pointed out the advantages of TV as the cheapest for of entertainment on offer and asked people to leave a message as was regularly out and about serving his customers. He married in 1965 and gladly delegated the growing office work to his capable partner who joined him in working ’til late at night.
Roy Snelling still believes that the customer is king although he no longer needs to visit them himself to repair sets at ten at night at the end of a busy day driving and adjusting. Modern viewers can have no conception of the rather hazy pictures that came through the airwaves to the 405 line TV sets in the rural districts at a distance from the very few early TV transmission masts. The word got around that the best man inNorfolk to achieve success in the difficult art of persuading pictures to appear and coalesce was Roy Snelling. Among his happier memories are those oft repeated occasions when he installed a household’s first ever TV and watched the joyous wonder blaze across his clients’ faces as the visible word came into their living room.
When Roy Snelling broke new ground as a TV supplier and repair man, families had no need to argue or to have their own sets in different rooms to see their favourite programmes, the choice was made for you. Quite simply it was the BBC TV switched on or the BBC TV switched off. When the first commercial programmes appeared on ITV institutions such as clubs, barracks and residential hotels and retirement homes often went to the expense of providing for inmates two television rooms respectively labelled BBC Room and the ITV Room. In those days long before every tourist expected a TV set in every bedroom murder was a distinct possibility whenever someone tried to change the channel.
The smaller sets of today are worked by ingenious printed circuits which have superseded the friable glass valves, like lamp bulbs, which were the bane of everyone’s lives bar the suppliers. The tiny tools now used need a keen eye, aided by a jeweller’s mounted magnifying glass, and a steady hand to top the training and knowledge which has turned electrical repair work into something like dentistry. Not surprisingly each speciality, be it TV, videos, satellite or Hi-Fi, has its own workshop manned by master specialists who are not distracted by attempting to be a Jack of all trades and master of none. Should clients require any type of aerial installed or serviced a call to the Snelling switch board will be immediately transferred by radio telephone to a well chosen sub-contractor ready to give the same rapid response that customers expect from East Anglia’s premier TV engineers.
Country people still lack the capability to tap into cable TV available to townees just as in the days when they continued to use oil lamps up until the 1950s and 60s long after town dwellers accepted electricity as the norm. They can, however, benefit from the Star Wars technology developed during the super-nations race into space by fixing a satellite dish to their wall to receive signals that have travelled a distance equal to circumnavigating planet earth twice. Wherever you live within the Snelling orbit you are guaranteed a service engineer arriving to effect repairs to your equipment within a few hours of your call.
Most jobs can be finished at the customer’s home or business while rental clients can be supplied with a replacement at no extra charge.
Townsmen and villagers alike, in their 60s, have memories of tradesmen’s horse-drawn delivery carts and vans when milk was labelled out of 17 gallon churns into jugs held by housewives and children standing at the roadside. The same people can select from thirty odd TV programmes which have been transmitted into space and bounced back off satellites, rotating like mechanical moons, to give a clearer picture and sound than possible along close to ground air waves. Snellings can either provide a modern TV capable of receiving such signals at video level or adapt your TV-Video combination to accept space reflected signals.
Now it’s all taken for granted just as postage stamps and steam trains became within a generation of their beginnings. Definitely not taken for granted by Roy Snelling are his staff of over thirty including Hedley Watts and two other originals from the 50s. Hedley Watts, now Managing Director, joined as an Apprentice in 1958 at about the same time that Mrs Snelling gave her bank book to her son with the words ‘Here’s my bank book, I don’t want it back’. Of those well spent funds no doubt one of the early investments was the two way radio system for the delivery and service van which enabled the hard pressed owner to keep ahead of competition by reducing journey times wasted on returning to base and reaching customers earlier than expected.
Customers have always been offered the choice between rental and purchase of all equipment stocked by Snellings of Blofield. It is unusual to find a TV rental company that sticks to agreed prices for the term of the rent period with the householder. Hotels, Conference Centres and Businesses find the Snelling rental package a valuable tool which can be enhanced or replaced soon after despatching a message by any communications method including the state of the art Prestel. Ever since their pioneering use of radio vans Snellings have trusted the most modern communications methods to help serve their customers. Spare parts ordered by Prestel minimise unacceptable delays in repairs and so enhance turn around, keep customers happy and reduce overheads to the benefit of profits.
The showrooms provide separate viewing areas for customers who like the latest functional look of plastic, aluminium and skeletal legs for their TV and Hi-Fi kit and those who share a Victorian outlook that TVs, like table legs, should be decently hidden. The latter are well catered for by an appropriately wall papered showroom full of elegantly veneered and inlaid pieces of furniture in which the most fully equipped entertainment centres are ensconced ready to pop out at the flick of a switch to the amazement of any Regency lady who would otherwise have felt at home there.
Thirty or 50 years ago colour sets were prohibitively costly and so complicated that an engineer was needed to make the 17 adjustments necessary to obtain a good picture. Currently the commonplace colour set requires only five adjustments and by the near future it will be down to one made by the viewer. Those who remember the old long tubes and small screens can be forgiven for wondering why TVs still occupy the same floor area as before when they are so flat. It is hard to recall that early screens were less than half the size of those in use now.
Television has become part of almost everyone’s lives to such an extent that people can now control it by the use of videos to record programmes put out when they are at work, in the gym or socialising and still enjoy the programmes that they select to fit in with their lifestyle. The exciting world of video games and the discs offering 36 volume encyclopaedias in your hand belong to the era envisaged by HG Wells and every other Sci-Fi author whose imagination soared ahead of man’s inventive and constructive capabilities.
Snellings cater for the area within a thirty mile radius of their famous mast offering the same good value in technology and service alike to the Hi-Fi buffs who talk knowledgeably about building up systems which employ digital recording and graphic equalisers to tailor the total quality of equipment to a customer’s ear and environment as they do to the tone deaf whose elderly sets are happily rusted onto their favourite station. In either case quality of engineering at prices to suit the free spender and those temporarily fiscally impaired is of the essence in maintaining customer loyalty.
As loyalty is a two way medium in which partners rely on each other Roy Snelling turned the company which he and his wife laboured to create into a charitable trust to protect the employment future of the 38 staff and to ensure continuity of service for the tens of thousands of customers who rely on Snellings of Blofield.