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David Collischon

Discussion in 'Roll of Honor & Memories - All Other Conflicts' started by GRW, May 22, 2016.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

    Oct 26, 2003
    Likes Received:
    Stirling, Scotland
    "David Collischon, who has died aged 78, was known as Mr Filofax for his success in marketing the ring-bound, loose-leaf “personal organiser” as a must-have accessory for the 1980s yuppie.

    The product was by no means new, however. It descended from Lefax, a personal filing system first imported from Philadelphia to Britain in 1921 by a London stationer, Norman & Hill; the name Filofax was registered for the British version, which sold on a modest scale to lawyers, doctors, clergymen and military officers. The business was in genteel decline when David Collischon (who was then a publishing executive) and his wife Lesley spotted its real potential in 1976 and spent a £500 legacy from an aunt to set up a business called Pocketfax in their garage in Loughton, Essex, selling Filofax components by mail order.

    At one of his first encounters with Filofax’s elderly manager, Collischon was told: “Someone has ordered a hundred pieces today, but of course we can’t possibly supply that many so I’ve put the order in the bin as usual.” The Collischons became major customers and in 1980 – having at first been rebuffed – they bought out the principal shareholder for £8,577. Two years later, for another £1,500, they acquired the stake still held by Grace Schurr, who had been a secretary at Norman & Hill in the 1920s when Filofax was born, and who had rebuilt the business after its premises and stock were destroyed by a bomb during the Second World War.

    A period of spectacular growth followed, with the introduction of a range of binder designs – from crocodile leather at £580 to vinyl at £12 – plus inserts, refills and accessories catering for all manner of tastes, travels and occupations. Most popular (and now very much a collector’s item) was the Winchester model, priced at around £50 and described by one newspaper as “essentially a souped-up diary”: but Collischon’s stroke of genius was to shift the Filofax from retailers’ stationery shelves to become a style accessory alongside designer handbags in London’s glossiest stores – and as far afield as Japan.

    The success of his strategy was confirmed when the fashion designer Paul Smith displayed a black Filofax in his Covent Garden shop window, alongside a Mont Blanc pen. In the era before the BlackBerry and the iPhone, Sloane Rangers and upwardly mobile executives relied on Filofaxes to organise their lives, and celebrities from the society photographer Lord Lichfield to the film-maker Woody Allen (who was said to own 20) declared themselves devotees.

    By 1986 Filofax was making profits of £1.4 million on turnover approaching £7 million, and in the following year the company was floated on London’s unlisted securities market (the predecessor of Aim) with a market capitalisation of £17 million. Expansion continued but cheaper imitators were soon springing up, and the end of the 1980s boom also marked a turn in Filofax’s fortunes. After losses in 1989 the business was taken over by an investment firm, Tranwood Earl.

    Having sold the family’s shareholding and stepped aside as chief executive, David Collischon remained non-executive chairman as the company went through further changes of ownership and strategy in the 1990s.

    The grandson of a German immigrant and son of a sales manager, Robert David Collischon was born at Newbury Park on July 19 1937. He was educated at Chigwell School, and began work as a trainee with the publisher Collins before National Service, in which he was commissioned in the Royal Army Service Corps and posted to Malaya."

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