The company was established by Fred Dawes, as a chain of television and radio rental shops, in the 1950s. The business was initially named Fred Dawes. All ninety of the Fred Dawes High Street stores became electrical retailers instead.
1971 Thorn acquired an Essex and Hertfordshire group of shops called Sydney Rumbelow's, and Fred Dawes stores were renamed Rumbelows.
Several other regional chains were bought around this time, including two chains that were already large and popular in North West England, NEMS and Strothers. As with Fred Dawes, these stores too were renamed Rumbelows.