back to article Maplin shutdown sale prices still HIGHER than rivals

Closing-down sale posters are being plastered over the shop windows of moribund Brit 'leccy tat emporium Maplin Electronics, but even now the discounted goods can still be bought more cheaply from rivals. The Maplin administration team at PwC, appointed on 28 February, has so far failed to strike a deal to sell the retailer’s …

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Its amazed me that the more electronics has become a fabric of our culture, the less stores are commonly available.

I don't think it is all that surprising. Once upon a time (decades ago now) an understanding of electronics down to component level was not all that difficult to achieve. Now? With many components having an awful lot of legs things have become much harder; add to that the challenges of surface - mount and DIY electronics has ceased to be a subject that is readily accessible to many (most?) people.

Shame, really, but I suspect that it is a downside of progress.

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Anonymous Coward

With many components having an awful lot of legs things have become much harder; add to that the challenges of surface - mount and DIY electronics has ceased to be a subject that is readily accessible to many (most?) people.

Discrete components, basic logic chips, prototyping board etc are still readily available; you don't have to do everything on surface mount PCBs and using complex chips. However the kind of projects that electronics hobbyists used to do in hardware has largely been supplanted by some Python code running on a Raspberry Pi with some off-the-shelf interface parts. I'm not sure if that is progress.

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Part of it

Its amazed me that the more electronics has become a fabric of our culture, the less stores are commonly available. Maybe this goes hand in hand with the dumbing down in society, and the lack of desire to understand how things work.

Well, in most cases when you think you might be able to fix the device, armed with the level of knowledge you expect will be required, it will furiously resist being opened up, then, if you manage to overcome that, will even more furiously resist troubleshooting due to lack of documentation and adequate test gear, and finally, having found the problem component despite the hurdles posed by the previous steps, it will turn out it's a HXC42276 rev.2bc made by Yum Cha Super Victorious Enterprises, a 169-pin BGA chip. The only three references to this part found on the Internet are your own search for this item, and two 'component suppliers' who claim to be able to sell you the HXC42276 rev.2a (a 144-pin PGA), only in quantities of 1000+ and for an undisclosed price, but with a lead time of 48 hours which they similarly claim for all the parts they sell, which includes OC72 transistors and AZ3 rectifier tubes (all brand new, and again in quantities of 1000+ only).

In other words, the gigantic proliferation of special-purpose ICs has made it as good as impossible even for a decent brick-and-mortar store to stock the parts that could satisfy the requirements of repairing common household electronics. Unlike 30 or more years ago.

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"I miss the electronics specialist who used to say things like "if you use this 8-pin DIL rather than that one you'll get a better result...""

Just wouldn't want to end up on holiday with him.

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"But the repeated leveraged buy-outs of Maplin by private equity players was arguably where the rot first set in, leaving it with high debts and owners that wanted to milk the firm for all they could."

el Reg needs to give up the vulture logo. These guys are the real vultures.

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That should be the actual takeaway from this: that in the longer term, debt-funded private equity buyouts almost always destroy the business.

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Anonymous Coward

> el Reg needs to give up the vulture logo. These guys are the real vultures.

Vultures normally at least have the common courtesy to wait for their prey to be dead first before feasting on it.

Private equity firms are more of a necrotising fasciitis.

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Coat

That should be the actual takeaway from this: that in the longer term, debt-funded private equity buyouts almost always destroy the business.

Is that a relation of the debt funded private finance initiative schemes that we will be paying off into the distant future?

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SVV
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seven out of eight products can be procured more cheaply on the Interweb

To be honest, this isn't really news is it? Just too small to compete with the slightly bigger chains who could bulk buy more cheaply. Who are already probably realising that whoever is now on the smallest remaing level will be next....... and so on up the pecking order...... until what are we left with after physical retail has all but disappeared? Most probably Amazon and the reseller sites where kit of non-verified provenance can be disposed of "more cheaply than at xyz" as your (and everyone else's) Google searches will show.

However, I always liked them, from the days when soldering irons were still widely used in anger (and it was often anger), to more recent years when I worked at a place near one, and could pop round the corner to just buy stuff there and then when it was needed - I realise this was not a choice for nearly everone else by the way.

So where do we go from here? Is it really now a choice between Amazon and ordering direct from manufacturers, with risk of abuse of monopoly power ever present? Any upstarts trying to break the huge monopolies being ruthlessly squashed before prices are ramped up hugely again? We consumers may not end up benefitting as much as many think we will in the end, if efficiency and economies of scale can be so great that all competition is stifled.

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70s Catalogue Covers

I love the sci-fi covers their catalogues had back in the 70s.

https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=maplin+70s+catalogue+covers&num=40&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibhtOE4uvZAhXqAMAKHeopDLsQ_AUICigB&biw=1280&bih=829

(excuse the Google image search link, it's the only collection of images my work PC will let me access!)

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 70s Catalogue Covers

Oh boy, can't believe I never thought to search for those before. One glance and I'm instantly transported back to my bedroom in the early 90s! 1991 especially powerful for some reason. It's like for a moment just looking at that old cover, the world was briefly full of excitement and wonder and opportunity again. Wow that was unexpected.

Now I feel sad for Maplin all over again :(

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Anonymous Coward

Re: 70s Catalogue Covers

One glance and I'm instantly transported back to my bedroom in the early 90s

I think you opened the wrong tab.

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Coat

Re: 70s Catalogue Covers

1987's cover seems to be rather ironic in context.

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Anonymous Coward

"PwC has not yet indicated any timeframe for shuttering the 2,335 Maplin outlets across the UK"

No wonder they're expensive, they spread themselves pretty thinly given that number of outlets...

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2335 outlets ??

Apart from the repeated leveraged buyouts, the increasingly LQT, and the painful greetings on entering the store, whilst I studiously avoided eye contact, that's your problem right there.

Over 2000 stores ?? How could that ever, ever be justifiable for the stuff they sell ? According to Wikipedia, even Currys only has 295 superstores and 73 high street stores.

Oh, hang on, Wikipedia says only 218 stores. Still crazy high if you compare to Currys.

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Re: 2335 outlets ??

Oh, hang on, Wikipedia says only 218 stores.

So allowing for a low level of web sales, Maplin sold on average about a million quid of tat per store. That's less than half the minimum viable sales for the sort of location and store they seem to prefer.

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Re: 2335 outlets ??

Looks to have been a typo; the article now says "PwC has not yet indicated any timeframe for shuttering the 200 outlets across the UK"

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Re: 2335 outlets ??

PCW like their typos - given the number of companies they audit as in good health - and months later they collapse with massive debts but healthy auditor fees and top management walk away financially unscathed (plump with cash usually)

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Interesting that nobody else is interested in their stores, even for another retail store.

Maybe the high street really is dead nowadays.

Though, if my old road is anything to go by, it'll be a bookies or a pharmacy before long (four bookies and three pharmacies on one quite-small row of shops!).

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Anonymous Coward

Interesting that nobody else is interested in their stores, even for another retail store.

Previous occupant of the unit that is/was my local Maplin was Blockbuster. It'd be a brave business to take on that unit.

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Anonymous Coward

"Maybe the high street really is dead nowadays."

The pressure now is to convert high street shops into housing. In recent years I have seen several local business sites razed and replaced by apartment blocks several storeys high.

The old established family businesses' shops are generally sandwiched in an ancient terrace row - so they have been converted to pubs, chain restaurants, and takeaways.

No doubt their customers are the London commuters who have taken the new apartments. They moved because they couldn't afford to live in London any more. The locals can't afford to buy/rent the new apartments - so are being pushed out to more distant areas - and then commuting back for work.

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Previous occupant of the unit that is/was my local Maplin was Blockbuster. It'd be a brave business to take on that unit.

Is that the one in Bristol by any chance?

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Anonymous Coward

No, it is Redditch, but I'm not surprised if there's several Once-Were-Blockbusters like this in the Maplin estate - when a retail chain goes bust, if the lease has been capitalised and pre-paid (or the obligation will come out of the residual of the business) the administrator tries to find somebody to take on the lease, and chunks of the portfolio tend to be acquired by the same company. A variant with a similar outcome is where a commercial landlord owns (say) the freehold of 30 units occupied by the bust business, and tries to offer that as a cheap package deal to somebody else who is believed to be willing to expand. You'll have seen this with former Woolworths and BHS sites.

Of course, with Toys R Us deservedly shutting, there's going to be more retail park space than takers, though.

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Previous occupant of the unit that is/was my local Maplin was Blockbuster. It'd be a brave business to take on that unit.

I've seen some locations like that. There's a department store in what was the county's first mall, had three different department stores in it, and all three chains went bankrupt. Heck, the entire mall itself died, and they demolished the main section in the middle to build a HomeCrappo. These days the old department store is a postal sorting center (what chance of THAT going bankrupt?)

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Pint

I used to shop at Maplin every so often, but once I found out I could get stuff cheaper from Amazon... well...

You know how the story ends.

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You're part of the problem.

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Headmaster

Whoa jeffdyer, you spelled solution wrong. But don't worry, I've got you covered.

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No. Every retail outlet that is not Amazon will go bust unless people wake up and smell the coffee.

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Anonymous Coward

Shouldn't that be the case with stores that have terrible customer service and charge extortinate amounts of money for goods and services?

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Yes, but it's a circle. Maplin hasn't always been like this. But once sales start to fall, wages can't be maintained. Experienced start leave. Prices are kept elevated to try to keep up the income. A vicious circle.

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No. Every retail outlet that is not Amazon will go bust unless THE OWNERS/MANAGEMENT wake up and smell the coffee.

FTFY

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People will not pay for service, by and large. There will always be a premium for bricks and mortar shops unless they're far out of the way, or they're very lucky with rent (Scan do ok, because they have one shop open on restricted hours, outside a retail park, and at least two warehouses to stock their predominantly mail order business).

It isn't just Maplin who stock expensive cables - almost much all retail outlets (with the exception of Poundland, and possibly Clas Ohlson ) are pricey, and that should tell you something.

Prices at Amazon are also increasing incidentally.

A lot of the more independent stores are on historic favourable rents; their building then gets re-developed, the rent doubles, and the only business that can afford it are the large corporates, leading to a sanitised high street. Rinse and repeat.

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Yeah. Blame someone else as usual. The answer is "use it or lose it".

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"Every retail outlet that is not Amazon will go bust unless people wake up and smell the coffee."

Too late for that

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Indeed. The local super wealthy family near me are rolling in cash because they own lots of commercial property and make shed loads from rent - theres quitre a turnover as many small businesses give it a go and find exorbitant rents make it impossible to make a living on anything other than very high margin / turnover situation. The building owners do not care as another sucker will be along sooner or later and the hefty cash stream will flow again.

Then again no better for residential rents, they are ludicrously high, we really need a return to fair rent legislation

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Anonymous Coward

"No. Every retail outlet that is not Amazon will go bust unless people wake up and smell the coffee."

Ok, that will keep Starbucks in business ... what about the rest?

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I used to shop at Maplin every so often, but once I found out I could get stuff cheaper from Amazon... well...

You know how the story ends.

But often the brick&mortar stores can't be arsed to actually STOCK anything in their stores anymore. If I have a more immediate need for a part, or simply don't want to wait for it (especially if there wouldn't be somebody home to receive the shipment) it's worth the extra cost to pick it up at retail. Especially if the shipping charges would bring the cost up to the retail price anyway.

But all too often I'll look for something in a store and they'll say "oh, we don't stock that, you can get it from our website". At which point I'll say "If I have to buy it online, there's plenty of places CHEAPER than you".

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No. Every retail outlet that is not Amazon will go bust unless people wake up and smell the coffee.

Yeah, but at this rate all the coffee shops will be StarSucks, and I don't *want* to smell their coffee...

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Sad Really...

Some ineffective competition for Amazon is better than none at all. I rarely bought anything from there but when I needed that one thing they wouldn't have anywhere else and I need it on a Sunday morning for some project or other then they were great. Expensive in the main but great.

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Re: Sad Really...

But woe betide you if you have an address that's hard to find (esp by the cowboys they use for Prime delivery)

Told them at least 10 times how to find us. One guy who did a superb job finding us all by himself then spent 10 minutes talking to Amazon Control Central and told me our place was now on their geolocation and there would be no further difficulties.

Hahahaha

So bad, I default to delivery to the nearest pickup point (a 5 mile drive away) as it's easier on my blood pressure. No use for anything other than small items, of course.

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One of the reasons they have failed.

Too many stores, prices too high they may just survive as an online presence

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Re: One of the reasons they have failed.

I think it's too late for them to even survive as online only.

Their "bread and butter" customers had already stopped even bothering to check the price of [thing] in maplins. Because the previous times they have checked they have found maplins price to be the worst every_single_time.

My dad (and me) were both always in need of something or other for a project, when your previous 100 "price checks" resulted in a chuckle and an order from ebay/china/amazon/random website, you eventually stop even bothering and just let the mighty google do it's thing and produce you the same item, at a far better price.

the last little LED display we needed for something Dad was working on was pence on ebay and pounds in maplins.

Literally something like 99p inc postage for a pack of three Vs maplins at over 3 quid + fuel and time going to maplins for one.

Their sole use was when you needed something *NOW* and there was a maplins nearby. Everyone else present was showrooming stuff before buying elsewhere, or going in simply because there was a maplins on the same estate as the shop they needed, and the kids dragged them in because of the flashing lights, electric toy cars out the front and the drone being flown by bored sales staff.

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Price was only part of the problem

The main problem is that over the years they slowly transformed from an interesting small supplier of electronics components to a small but steady customer base into an expensive supplier of tat to consumers who didn't know any better.

That, and the fact that they always had someone to harass you with "hello what are you looking for?" the moment you walked into the store, but someone never had enough people manning the tills to avoid a large queue.

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Re: Price was only part of the problem

Another PC World/Curry's.

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When I was in my early teens

Other boys had 'naughty mags under their beds. I had a Maplin catalogue with which I would fantasise over having a Yupiteru MVT-7100 radio scanner.

I did get one, when I was 33! Time moves on, things change.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: When I was in my early teens

"I did get one, when I was 33!"

... you didn't get a 'naughty mag' until you were 33???

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Anonymous Coward

I worked

in the Hillsborough shop in Sheffield when it first opened around 1990. Myself, Andy, Adrian, Mick Rena, Brian and Chris the Saturday lad. It sold every resistor, capacitor and transistor you could want, it sold good radio gear, good cable and the catalogue was a peach.

If any of you read the register and this piece, hello!!!

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A note on customer service , retailers

Don't jump on your customers as soon as they walk in the store as it really pi***s them off and frankly puts me going in on occasions just for a browse or an impulse buy.

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Re: A note on customer service , retailers

One weekend I walked into a furniture store as I needed a new bed. The store was quiet as I walked in and I saw all the sales staff clock me. One by one they came up to me to ask if they could help. I walked out without buying anything.

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Re: A note on customer service , retailers

"Yes, you can help me by leaving me alone".

I only use it when I absolutely need to, but yep - if you NEED to push sales that hard, and you can afford to employ people to do nothing but approach customer's individually all day long, then sorry - you either don't need my money, or you've got problems which mean I don't want to be relying on you for ongoing support.

Maplin's is just proof of this - from when you need to push your wares in my face, and approach me when I'm clearly standing there holding an armful of very specific techy electronic items which I've experienced no problem determining what they are, at that point you have too much invested in staff having to push products rather than customers coming to you to get them. And look what happens to companies who get that far.

EDIT: My usual line, in any kind of Maplin's / CEX / etc. is usually "Do I *look* like I need help in a geek shop?"... because there's no way anyone looks at me in an electronics shop and thinks "Poor old non-techy codger, maybe he needs a hand"... I basically project "geek". Said in the right tone, it makes people laugh, agree, and wander off.

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