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Family firm still going strong after 80 years

A SOUTH Tyneside institution is celebrating 80 years of sterling service to the public.

In 1930, three brothers – Jim, Harry and Tommy Thompson – opened a wireless shop in Church Street, South Shields.

At the time, Ramsay MacDonald was Prime Minister, George V was on the throne and Amy Johnson was flying solo from London to Australia.

After eight decades, the company – now known as Thompson's TVs – is still going strong.

You are now more likely to see a wireless in a museum than an electrical goods store, but a quick glance into a Thompson store in 2010 confirms that the firm has kept pace with the HD and digital era.

In 1932, the shop moved to Fowler Street, where the company still has a workshop. A second shop was opened at The Nook in 1957.

In 1988, business began at the shop in King Street. Both the King Street and Nook outlets are still trading, and the company has seven employees.

A silhouette of the three brothers forms the company logo.

Jim Thompson was a miner before opening the shop, and was involved in the business until he died in 1988.

The running of the business was passed down to son-in-law Terence Allinson, who married Jim's daughter Isabel.

Terence passed away in June this year aged 84, but Isabel, 80, remains as a director. The day-to-day running of the company is done by their son Andrew Allinson, the current managing director.

Andrew worked at the firm for pocket money as a teenager, and became a full-time employee in 1983.

The company is going strong, despite competition from big supermarkets and online shopping, as well as a drop in demand for TV rentals.

Andrew thinks he knows the reason for the firm's continued popularity.

He said: "Our company has an enviable reputation for service and friendliness.

"My grandad and dad instilled in me the importance of honesty and integrity, something that seems to be in short supply in today's world.

"Put these together with providing what the customer wants at the right price, and you have the simple formula for why we're still here."

The changes at Thompson's, in Andrew's time alone, have been massive.

He added: "The products here have changed hugely since I started work. Televisions have gone from big wooden boxes to the thin LEDs of today.

"In the early 1980s, mahogany went out and teak came in, but a lot of our customers still wanted mahogany because it matched the dcor in their homes.

"We were spraying a mahogany effect over the teak back then, but I think we're going to see wood coming back in."

Timeline

1930: The first Thompson's wireless shop is opened in Church Street, South Shields.

1932: The company moves to Fowler Street.

1957: Now in the television age, a second shop is opened at the Nook.

1969: Thompson's is selling colour televisions for 299 guineas (314), with 60 percent of the business being down to TV rentals.

1988: Founder Jim Thompson dies with the company now being run by his son-in-law Terence Allinson. The King Street shop opens.

2004: Mr Allinson's son, Andrew becomes managing director, having been a director since 1995.

2010: Terence Allinson passes away, aged 80. Thompson's TVs marks 80 years of trading in South Tyneside.