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Jaycar Is 30 Years Old

While Jaycar is now the dominant electronic parts retailer in Australia it had very small beginnings, 30 years ago. Since then it has grown from a single run-down store in a virtual dungeon in a Sydney lane to an operation with 72 stores (and climbing) and employing over 1100 people in Australia, New Zealand and elsewhere. Leo Simpson recently sat down with the owner, Gary Johnston, to chew the fat and review some of the high points.

By Leo Simpson

Click for larger image
Gary Johnston in his office at Rydalmere. His desk isn’t always this cluttered – he claims he cleaned it up especially for our visit . . .

Just over 30 years ago, Dick Smith Electronics was blazing the way and showing how kits and electronic parts should be retailed. Gary Johnston, one of the key men in Dick Smith’s management team was doing very nicely.

Then in around 1980 it all changed, with Dick deciding to sell to Woolworths for a very good price. At that stage though, Dick Smith Electronics had only 18 stores and about 34 country dealers. It has grown enormously since then, of course, to the giant we know today.

But that sale left Gary Johnston feeling that he should move on. In early 1981 Dick Smith put a newspaper clipping from the “Businesses for Sale” section of the Sydney Morning Herald on Gary Johnston’s desk, concerning a tinpot electronics shop in Sydney’s Sussex Street – John Carr & Co – with a view to possibly acquiring its stock and maybe the whole business.

Subsequently, it was thoroughly assessed by Gary Johnston and DSE’s General Manager, Ike Bain. Both concluded that the business was positively Dickensian – and not a proposition for Dick Smith Electronics because it would require too much hassle and work to make it worthwhile. There was an enormous inventory of quite obscure stock which hadn’t moved in years and was unlikely to ever do so. (What do you do with several thousand radio tuner dial drums?)

So Gary Johnston decided to make the jump from his very safe and well-paid position at DSE and go out on his own. And what a huge jump it turned out to be.

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