OBITUARY: Bill Sutton

Bill Sutton made an indelible mark on the home appliance industry and became one of its best-known figures through his sheer dogged determination in promoting the Goblin company both in Britain and abroad. Although due to retire in 1980, he continued to be a Goblin "ambassador" and was working until the day before he died, after 56 years of service.

Sutton's most famous efforts were with the Goblin Teasmade, the teamaker taken to the hearts of the British public, at its peak selling 300,000 a year. Sutton crossed the Atlantic in the mid-Seventies to market voltage- adjusted Teasmades (before then the Americans had been coming to Britain to buy them) and was delighted when the New York department store Bloomingdales accepted an initial minimum order of 250; a small amount to the Americans, but a huge order for the more conservative British.

Sutton's lifelong love affair with Goblin could be blamed on his uncle, who helped him get his first job with the British Engineering and Vacuum Cleaner Company in Fulham, west London (which later became Goblin BVC). He was just 14, and had cheekily asked for a job at the company where his uncle worked, having already advised his headmaster that he had a job in order to escape school. The year was 1929, and he almost lost this first job after only six months, when he was suspended for a week without pay for fighting with another young employee over the polishing of the metal vacuum cleaner ends.

Sutton had received top marks at school, and his handwriting skills enabled him to progress into an office role by 1930, travelling to and from Somerset House with hire purchase agreements. A total of 13 local boy scouts were later used to carry out this task as business grew. He then moved on to work in the Accounts Department and then the Statistics Department of the early Goblin company, which by this time had about 45 branches, from London to Aberdeen.

In Easter 1938 the company moved to Leatherhead, for which Sutton received a bonus of half a crown for the move on top of his pounds 3 salary. Part of his new job entailed getting the company chairman Hubert Cecil Booth (who had invented the vacuum cleaner in 1901) to sign off cheques. It is reputed that Booth insisted on Sutton telephoning him daily at 10.30am; which Sutton duly did, but Booth never answered, instead ringing Sutton back at 11am to ask why he hadn't called and threatening him with the sack. It was perhaps from these early experiences that Sutton developed his indefatigable sense of humour.

When the Second World War came, Sutton went into the infantry, as he could drive. Afterwards, he rejoined the sales office at Goblin, dealing with the notorious purchase tax applied during this time to vacuum cleaners, washing machines, electric clocks and irons. Even the Teasmade was taxed as a clock. Goblin vacuum cleaners used to change machine colours at least once a year, and one of Sutton's successful early marketing ideas was to ask for primrose yellow and mauve, because they were Oxford Street fashion colours at the time.

Sutton's intensive marketing efforts led to his rise to sales manager in 1958. A production site was set up in Birmingham in 1965 to produce Goblin's upright vacuum cleaners, and Sutton became marketing director of the Group. By 1971 the electronics company BSR had bought Swan and Goblin to diversify their operations, and Sutton was made sales director. In 1984 the US-owned company Shop Vac Corporation bought Goblin from BSR, Sutton remaining with the company through these ownership changes.

Sutton was appointed MBE in 1989 for his services to the industry. He claimed in April 1994, celebrating 65 years in that industry, that he "never worked for money; only for love", and continued to receive letters from all over the world about ancient Teasmades and Goblin vacuum cleaners dutifully continuing to provide years of service. He woke every morning to the sound of his own Goblin teamaker and radio. In 1979 Sutton was the subject of the television show This is Your Life and was presented with the two-millionth Teasmade by Nicholas Parsons.

Albert Edward (Bill) Sutton, sales consultant: born Barnes, London 26 March 1915; married 1940 Sylvia Perrin (one son, one daughter); died Guildford, Surrey 20 August 1995.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £50,000

£40000 - £50000 per annum + bonus: Ashdown Group: HR Manager - West London - £...

Recruitment Genius: Recruitment & HR Administrator

£17000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Guru Careers: HR Manager / HR Business Partner

£55 - 65k (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: A HR Manager / HR Business Partner i...

Recruitment Genius: Senior HR Assistant

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Company's vision is to be t...

Day In a Page

Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'
10 best statement lightbulbs

10 best statement lightbulbs

Dare to bare with some out-of-the-ordinary illumination
Wimbledon 2015: Heather Watson - 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Heather Watson: 'I had Serena's poster on my wall – now I'm playing her'

Briton pumped up for dream meeting with world No 1
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

It's time for big John Isner to produce the goods to go with his thumping serve
Dustin Brown: Who is the tennis player who knocked Rafael Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?

Dustin Brown

Who is the German player that knocked Nadal out of Wimbeldon 2015?
Ashes 2015: Damien Martyn - 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Damien Martyn: 'England are fired up again, just like in 2005...'

Australian veteran of that Ashes series, believes the hosts' may become unstoppable if they win the first Test
Tour de France 2015: Twins Simon and Adam Yates have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Twins have a mountain to climb during Tour of duty

Yates brothers will target the steepest sections in bid to win a stage in France
John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy