Dealer of the Month
Nobody knows the business better than Dave Simms, and the business is glad to have him back. For years, Dave was a popular music dealer in West London operating from a small shop — MBC Music — in South Ealing and doing every passing musician one good turn or another.
It was really those good turns that lead Dave away from the players. Because Dave cares , musicians started to patronise his shop with unusual regularity so when he and a designer — Rick Watts — started to knock out a few amps proudly called Simms-Watts, things started to go a bit well.
Before he could turn round, Dave had one of the most successful amplification businesses in the U.K. and EMI bought him out. For the past few years he's been a director of the EMI section that paid lots of loot for Simms-Watts and he's also been the sales director of the musical instrument distributors Rosetti and Co.
Today he's back in the shop. Not the same shop exactly, one just up the road in The Grove, off Ealing High Street in West London. The Dave Simms Music Centre is quite a big shop, much bigger than the original MBC premises "we've still got that for a warehouse" — and the second time around Dave knows most of the answers before he discovers the problems. "Even if I say it myself," grins Dave over his trademark, tinted glasses, " I had a lot of varied experience. I started gigging as a player when I was just over 14 and I first opened a shop in Ealing selling secondhand gear. I didn't carry any new items at all except for strings and plectrums and that shop did very well. Then we started making our own gear and that started going very well and from that start we developed the whole Simms-Watts thing. When EMI bought us out they asked me to stay on as a director because they naturally wanted my name on the board. They wanted me there for seven years, I said 'No, how about a couple?' In the end we agreed that I should stay for three years. During that time I became sales director of Rosetti and Co. and I really travelled the world learning about exports, meeting the people and trying to get myself known. The thing about exports is that you have to go to the places and get to know the language. I keep cassettes in my car so that I can practice on my way to work."
All that experience has now been poured into Dave Simms Music Products, the company which umbrellas all Dave's activities. It's all centered around Project Electronics, the company through which Dave manufactures August amplification, disco equipment and lighting. The August gear is naturally featured heavily in the Ealing shop and Dave is currently tying up deals that will make the equipment available around the country. But isn't he repeating the pattern that took him away from direct contact with the customers?
"One of the main reasons that I left EMI to work on my own again is that I wanted to be in touch with things. As good as it was with EMI I was never in contact with musicians. I'm making very sure that it won't happen with August gear. I'm deliberately putting a strict limit on the number of places that August will be sold. Many people have asked me for the right to sell August in the West End of London, for example, but I think the West End is finished. This shop is the only place you can buy August in London. I think there will only be about eight places in Britain that August can be bought from and I'm sure that musicians and DJs will be happy to look for our equipment because of the very good price. It's only a good price because we're deliberately keeping the operation small and flexible. It's flexibility that's the main thing. When we first started making Simms-Watts stuff, nearly every customer wanted a special modification and we were small enough to be able to do that for them. Now the things are produced on a regulated basis so the contact is lost. I'm going back to the flexible situation with August and we'll do anything anyone asks".
The August equipment is manufactured in the Grove premises and at a small factory in Southall. Most servicing and repairs are undertaken at the Grove premises.
"We offer a 24 hour service on most repairs and we're usually happy to loan an item of equipment during that period so the musician or DJ can keep working. I think that kind of thing's important."
There's a wide range of equipment and instruments at the shop although it only opened last month. Apart from August there's not going to be any special emphasis on one particular line and there'll naturally be a large amount of secondhand gear in stock at most times.
Jim St. Pier and Paul Raymond are in partnership on the venture with Dave. Jim and Dave have been together for many years and Jim looks after the retail side of the business. He's a woodwind player as well as playing guitars and is extremely experienced in helping bands find exactly the piece of equipment or instrument they're looking for.
Paul Raymond is the lighting expert. There's a big disco and lighting section attached to the shop and there's an amazing variety of light wheels and effects that Paul's dreamed up. For this reason the shop has already become a centre for DJ's in London. Paul also plays guitar, so he understands the various aspects of the business.
Although August equipment has only been around in a big way for the last 18 months or so, Dave Simms has already built it up into a good export product for the flagging British balance of payments situation.
His experience with Simms-Watts and later Rosetti means that he set up Project Electronics with the most incredible amount of knowledge and an equally incredible list of contacts. August is already exported all over Europe — with the: exception of Italy, America, Canada, Africa and a few other places and much of Dave's time is spent travelling, furthering the export drive.
"About 40 per cent of our output goes to export at the moment," said Dave, "and that's a figure I expect will increase."
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