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Keith Edward Lord (1922–1978)

by Beverley Kingston

This article was published:

Keith Edward Lord (1922-1978), discount furniture retailer, was born on 3 June 1922 at Punchbowl, Sydney, second son of native-born parents Henry Edward Lord, fitter's labourer, and his wife Jessie Elenor, née Skinner. Trained as an assistant boiler-maker, Keith was employed by Anderson's Sausages Pty Ltd when he raised his age by three years and enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 6 June 1940. He attended Eastern Command Cooking School and in June 1941 embarked for the Middle East where he was attached to the 2nd/6th Field Regiment. From March 1942 he was based in Australia. On 13 January 1943 at St Andrew's Anglican Church, Sans Souci, Sydney, he married Jean Tingle, a 17-year-old office-assistant. He served with his regiment in New Guinea from 1 July 1943 until embarking for Brisbane in January 1944. Several bouts of malaria kept him in Queensland until he was discharged from the A.I.F. on 29 September 1945.

Lord worked as a truck driver and as a door-to-door salesman before opening a vacuum-cleaner service at Sans Souci in 1950. Some ten years later he set up as an electrical retailer and in 1962 established Keith Lord Pty Ltd in Parramatta Road, Ashfield. In addition to electrical goods, he soon sold quality furniture and furnishings at discount prices in spacious and well-lit premises. Another store, Bill Lord Pty Ltd, run by his son, was opened at Carlton. In 1970 Keith Lord Holdings Ltd acquired John Hicks & Co. Ltd, a Brisbane furniture retailer; the Brisbane store was quickly sold and the capital used for expansion in Sydney. By the early 1970s the Ashfield store, with its 110-yard (100 m) frontage on Parramatta Road, was a landmark.

In 1975 Lord was operating five discount stores—one in the city and four in the suburbs. The spectacular growth of his business reflected growing opportunities for discount selling due to television advertising, increasing affluence, and a growing enthusiasm for electrical appliances and home decoration. Lord joined a national purchasing group to buy locally and overseas on favourable terms, and became prominent in a prolonged battle for the abolition of resale price maintenance. The company stayed under the control of Lord, his family and a few business associates. He supervised his stores meticulously and emphasized salesmanship. Despite his reputation as an aggressive discounter, he remained an old-fashioned salesman who studied his customers closely. Interior decorators were employed as consultants, his furniture carried a five-year warranty, and a fleet of radio-controlled vans provided after-sales service.

Wiry, with a receding hairline and huge, capable hands, by the 1970s Lord appeared older than his years. He planned to retire late in 1978 and to spend more time sailing his boat and fishing on the Georges River near his home at Blakehurst. During a business visit to the United States of America he suffered a heart attack at San Francisco airport and died on 13 July 1978 in the Peninsula Hospital, Burlingame. Survived by his wife, four sons and three daughters, he was cremated in Sydney. The company went into voluntary liquidation in 1994.

Select Bibliography

  • Keith Lord Holdings Limited. A Corporate Fact Book (Syd, c1971)
  • Rydge's, Nov 1970, p 53, Aug 1978, p 52
  • Sun-Herald (Sydney), 16 July 1978
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 23 May, 19 July 1978
  • Australian Financial Review, 24 June, 24 Aug 1994.

Citation details

Beverley Kingston, 'Lord, Keith Edward (1922–1978)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University,, published first in hardcopy 2000, accessed online 16 June 2024.

This article was published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 15, (Melbourne University Press), 2000

View the front pages for Volume 15

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