After 82 years, Ernsmiths closes its doors

By Craig Zammit

ADELAIDE: South Australia’s oldest family owned electrical retailer, Ernsmiths, has officially closed its doors after 82 years of business.

Originally started in 1924 by brothers Oswald and Ernest Smith, the retail icon was forced to close its doors following the recent closure of the company’s Prospect store.

The retailer moved to new premises at Prospect with twice the floor area compared to its previous location at Norwood, but a strong focus on traditional retailing did not appeal to younger consumers.

“We moved out to Prospect (from Norwood) because we needed a greater floor area, but it didn’t work,” Ernsmith director, Barry Smith told the Adelaide Advertiser.

“Everybody is finding it difficult in the electrical business. You have to be really big to survive and margins have fallen,” he said.

“We had very loyal customers and we have had generations of families come through our doors, but being in the business a long time, doesn’t guarantee you’ll stay there.”
State Retailers’ Association president John Brownsea, reflected the sadness felt from the company’s closure.

“I am very sorry to hear they are going, it’s another chapter closing,” Brownsea said.

“I don’t think the relocation was the best thing to do when you think about it, and certainly leaving Norwood wouldn’t have helped them.”

Ernsmiths, whose King William St store once reigned as Australia’s largest single retail store, was formerly an icon in the whitegoods industry, being the first retailer to introduce fixed-term payments.

The store started trading by predominantly selling transistor radios, but by the mid 1950s Ernsmiths was selling refrigerators, washers, and stereograms and then later progressing to colour televisions and hi-fi systems.

“[Ernsmiths] was one of those old companies that never changed with the times and should never have moved from their traditional shoppers who remained loyal to this old retail icon in Norwood,” said Hitachi Australia general manager, Geoff Hannaford who grew up in Adelaide.

“To be honest their loyal shopper were a very old age group and they never attracted the new generations. In a small way it reminds me of Gowings in Sydney,” he said.

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