An Information Revolution
In April 1966 the Luckins Electrical Price Reporter for wholesalers and contractors was first published. I’ll skip the usual stuff about Twiggy and Revolver and the 60s and tell you the significance of the Luckins.
In the age of Google, we think nothing of searching numerous web sites for product information. Some, like Amazon, gather it all together for us. Now it really is quite easy to find out about nearly anything. I am currently looking for a new phone – with the aid of Carphone Warehouse, O2, Tech Radar and Pocket Lint, I will be well informed about prices and specs before I even go in the shop!
Back in the 60s, life was very different, with electrical wholesalers and contractors relying on manufacturers’ printed catalogues and price lists. Understandably, if just a few items changed in price, you were unlikely to hear about it. In an era of inconsistent inflation, it was easy to quote a job in good faith and lose money on it.
One Stop Data Shop
The Luckins, as it quickly became known, solved this problem – a large loose-leaf A4 volume, it held full product price information from the leading manufacturers (then mostly British…). It contained about 80,000 product lines at launch from over 100 manufacturers. In time it grew to over 150,000 products from around 300 manufacturers. Updates were sent out weekly and all you had to do to stay on top of prices was replace the old pages, as instructed by the Weekly Bulletin.
The Luckins was the original one stop shop for your product data requirements.
But this was only the beginning: the owners of the business were keen to exploit new markets and new innovations. The product range was expanded with a range of price information services, including mechanical services, heating & plumbing and engineers tools.
Computer Data Services
In the mid 70s (a decade of rampant inflation) a computer service was launched which allowed users to update computer systems directly, using magnetic tape or floppy disks.
The computer data service was probably ahead of its time, as when I joined the company in the early 80s, there were only a handful of users. However, when I left over 20 years later, most users had migrated to one of several electronic services: the original computer data service; TraSer, a price book on a PC; or DataSelect, a service designed to integrate closely with third party software applications.
In recent years, developments have included the online service Luckins Live and a significant extension of the data elements covered by the service, including images and product specifications. Most users now get their updates (sometimes daily) via the internet. The Luckins Database currently holds 1.35 million live items covering the UK, Ireland and the Gulf States.
So, as we talk today about the age of information and knowledge workers, it’s interesting to think that a slightly clunky loose leaf book started this transformation over 50 years ago!