It’s interesting what can be learnt from the obituaries page. A man, John Bloom, made - before he lost it again - a fortune from selling twin tub washing machines to the masses. A proper fortune, Mayfair, Rolls Royce and all.
He had a flat in Mayfair in the heart of London, a 150ft motor yacht that had a lift linking the bridge to the master bedroom, and a Rolls-Royce Phantom in which, for a publicity stunt, he gave the Beatles a ride down Fleet Street.
Such inequality, such capitalist exploitation of the toiling masses.
Except, well:He had done it by shaking the “white goods” industry to its very foundations in what had become known in the press as the “washing machine wars”. His approach was simple yet revolutionary. His company, Rolls Razor, cut out the middle men, the retailer and the wholesaler, by selling 6,000 washing machines a week directly to customers at a drastically reduced rate of almost half-price.
In 1958 he advertised the Electromatic twin-tub washer-spin dryer at 39 guineas (£980 today), undercutting the high street retailers by 50 per cent.
Who got the better end of the deal there? In aggregate? The 6,000 households a week saving near £1,000 each or the bloke with the fancy lifestyle? Clearly, it’s that £6 million a week being saved, isn’t it, for no one at all is thinking that Bloom was off with £6 million a week himself.
As it always is with this entrepreneurial capitalism of course. Most assuredly those who succeed gain that luxury. But it only happens if they’re making their customers vastly better off by their actions. For, of course, the consumers won’t be lining up to buy the stuff unless it does make them better off.
And doesn’t the thought of the £2,000 washing machine set just sting these days?