Hughes at 100: From one-man band to century-old electrical giant
- Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021
It began as a one-man band rewinding industrial electric motors for the Lowestoft fishing fleet.
Now, a century later, and Hughes is a household name electrical empire employing 800 people in more than 30 stores across East Anglia.
The company was founded in 1921 by Frank Hughes, who seven years later bought his first shop on Tonning Street in Lowestoft, where he built and sold radios.
His grandson Robert Hughes, now chairman of the company, said his grandfather would be astounded by the scale of the company now, 100 years later.
Marking the centenary by exhibiting examples of historic electrical appliances at The Forum in Norwich on Saturday, Mr Hughes said: "I think he would be amazed by the scale of it.
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"He would probably struggle to believe that a company carrying his name now employs 800 people across East Anglia."
The company has stores in 36 locations including some Norfolk towns where it is the sole provider of electrical goods.
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Across its history, it has been forced to adapt on a number of occasions, from introducing rental services to taking the plunge into the world wide web - which Mr Hughes said was among the biggest challenges the business faced.
He said: "The biggest change across our history was clearly the internet, which has changed so much about the way people shop.
"We even considered officially adding .co.uk to the company name as you have to have the same level of association with the web as you do with the shop.
"Nowadays, people still want to look, touch and feel what they are buying but they'll then go away and shop around online - that's what we have to compete with."
But he added that the pandemic was the single biggest threat - and that were it not for rental income the company could realistically have gone under.
He added: "My whole family is immensely proud the company is where it is and 100 years old.
"There's that time old saying, clogs to clogs in three generations, but I'm that third generation and here we are. It's a very proud moment."