back to article Maplin Electronics sold for £85m to Rutland Partners

Electronics retail chain Maplin has been sold to a private equity firm for £85million - just a third of what it was acquired for a decade ago. Rutland Partners has snapped up Maplin and promised to use "change, restructuring and investment" in the pursuit of profitable growth. In a canned statement, Nick Morrill, managing …

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  1. Pete 2 Silver badge

    How the sale went down

    The private equity people walked into the room - at which point all the Maplin staff execs scarpered out of sight. When they did reappear, they were unable to answer the most basic questions about the business, merely reading out what was written about it in the catalogue. They also refused, point blank, to make eye contact.

    When the P/E execs made their offer to buy the outfit, they got the response "sorry, we don't have one in stock at the moment, but if you come back next week, we'll order one for you - but in the mean time, would you like a radio-controlled toy with lots of flashing lights".

    Luckily, the P/E guys were too savvy to fall for the Maplin teams offer of buying an extended warranty with the company (no, you don't get your money back if the company turns out to be broken), but they did buy an extra set of batteries for a bargain £5 million.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: How the sale went down

      Not entirely fair. I've always found Maplin staff to be more informed than elsewhere. Some of them are even enthusiastic and genuinely helpful.

      E.g. when I had to take a charger back, they had no trouble finding a record of the sale even though it was nine months earlier at another store.

      But they're not cheap. And they're competing with the '50p for a mile of CAT6' Ebay people.

      Shame, but big box retail probably isn't a good thing to be investing in now.

      1. John Arthur
        Coat

        Re: How the sale went down

        TheOtherHobbes: "Not entirely fair. I've always found Maplin staff to be more informed than elsewhere. Some of them are even enthusiastic and genuinely helpful."

        You've been shopping in PC World too much!

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          Re: How the sale went down

          I have been offered - though, to be fair, some years ago - a completely incorrect IC as a substitute for the out-of-stock one I wanted... on the grounds that it had the same package and number of legs.

          The days are sadly gone when the guys in the Hammersmith shop would try to work out what you were building from your shopping list.

          1. Cliff

            Re: How the sale went down

            Don't think I've ever been offered an extended warranty to be frank, and my local Maplin is costly but couldn't be more eager to help and serve. And they have the usual mix of some fun toys, useful stuff, and landfill.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: How the sale went down

              We don't offer extra warranties on anything at Maplin.

              We also get zero pressure from management to sell the customer things they don't need.

              We do get EPOS recommendations popping up on the Till like batteries for that toy, etc.

              Basically common sense addons the manufacturers leave out. If we don't, we get told off and then sacked. So expect us pushing these items at the Till.

              Oh and we get zero commission on sales. So no pressure to sell things that the company may wish to get rid of surplus. They simply reduce the price.

              Yes, we only get paid just above minimum wage. Supermarkets and takeaways pay far more.

              Do I enjoy my job? Yes. Only been with them 3 years. But the working conditions are good and most of us get a kick out of helping the IT ignorant of which is 90+% of the English public.

              1. RubberJohnny

                Re: How the sale went down

                The guys at my local Maplin are a good bunch. One looked at my shopping list and we got into a discussion about balanced and unbalanced audio cables, and when I explained what I was doing with the stuff he agreed with me. They do know their stuff and are most apologetic about the prices of some things.

                I do wish the display shelves wouldn't fall apart when I touch something though.

          2. Martin-73 Silver badge
            Unhappy

            Re: How the sale went down

            It very much varies who you get... the Bevois Valley store in Southampton still has one or two of the original, knowledgeable staff left. The guys who were happy to help me, in the early 80s, work out the value of resistor I needed for a project, pointed out I needed an inverse diode as it was running on AC, to limit the reverse voltage on the LED (A 1N4148). All in all they spent maybe 20 mins with a clueless electronics n00b to sell maybe 50p's worth of parts. And bless them for that. Pity that people like that are becoming the exception :(

          3. Robert Baker

            Re: How the sale went down

            "I have been offered - though, to be fair, some years ago - a completely incorrect IC as a substitute for the out-of-stock one I wanted... on the grounds that it had the same package and number of legs."

            Sadly, that's far from unique. Back in the days of the Civil Service Store in the Strand, London, I popped into the DIY department in the basement to buy a pair of crimping pliers. The idiot in charge told me "how about these, they've got a crimping action". Well, duh -- all pliers have *a* crimping action, but of course the reason I was asking for crimping pliers specifically was that only those have *the* specific crimping action required to fasten solderless terminals without mangling them.

            And in any case, what the pillock was trying to foist on me wasn't a pair of pliers, it was a crescent wrench. I don't know whether he was stupid, or reckoned I was (most likely both), but needless to say, I never shopped there again.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: How the sale went down

          >>> You've been shopping in PC World too much!

          Credit where it's due, I've always found Maplin staff to be really good. I've reached the limits of their knowledge more than once, but they've always been very helpful.

          I know Maplin can be more expensive than online but I still enjoy going into their shops and they're very convenient.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: How the sale went down

        Maplin's philosophy is, if you want it now, expect to pay for it.

        This would work if they had it in stock of course.

        But they only have a minimum stock level of 2 on most small items. Just a shame if you want 3 LEDs! :)

        Personally I'm tired of turning away customers who want it 'now' and Maplin still hadn't got it back in stock. Customers don't want to be told it's available from another Maplin store down the road or they can get it delivered in 3 days time!

        Maplin is about to trial a Trade Counter in some stores. But they've got no idea what to sell, as they've asked us what Tradesmen would want.

        How about a non-Rolson tool for starters?

        You've got to laugh!

        1. Stuart Halliday
          Happy

          Re: How the sale went down

          Well, you'd cry otherwise wouldn't you? :)

    2. jonathanb Silver badge

      Re: How the sale went down

      The staff in my local Maplin are really helpful and know their stuff, and as far as I'm aware, they don't even offer extended warranties.

    3. Goldmember

      Re: How the sale went down

      They're a bit hit and miss, I tend to find. When I bought a soldering iron, the guys were very friendly and directed me to one with a standard mains plug, along with some recommended solder for the task. But when I went in another time and asked for a double ended IDE cable (around 10 years ago, mind), the guy I spoke to swore blind they didn't exist, and insisted you simply couldn't connect more than one device to an IDE port.

      To be honest though, nowadays I just enjoy going in and looking around at the components. The same way I enjoy a trip out to B&Q, looking at all the power tools and wishing I had a reason to buy them.

  2. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
    Trollface

    Online? That's a laugh!

    Not when "postage" on orders less than £10 is £3!

    Nowadays, you're better off with the small traders on eBay for small (hobbyist) items.

    If the prices were reasonable, and P&P really was P&P, not a small order surcharge, I might use them for odds and ends.

  3. Cosmo

    I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

    Out of the goodness of my heart, I donated my last VGA to VGA cable to a friend. When I needed one at very short notice, I made the 5 minute drive to Maplin to buy one. I wasn't assuming I could get Amazon or eBay prices, or anything, but I didn't think a VGA cable could be that expensive right?

    Wrong! The cheapest one was a tenner! Ranging upto something stupid like 27 quid, It was cheaper to order one off Amazon with next day deliver. Ridiculous.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

      And have you seen how much they charge for a Cat5/5e UTP?

    2. eclairz

      Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

      That's just supply and demand, they probably already sold a ton of VGA cables to free up space, and kept a few for people using old monitors or projectors. You came in the store because you couldn't be asked to wait for delivery for said VGA cable = demand. Next time when stuff goes on clearance sale just buy some spares. To be honest they take too many risks selling so many different items which fail to get sold, which is why their margins are so high. If they sold only stuff that sold they could keep prices down but predicting demand is fairly difficult.

      1. John Bailey

        Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

        Yeah..

        Problem is.. very little is supplied, and the prices they demand make it daft to go there.

        These shops have had their day. Just as the old hifi shops and electronics shops that they crowded out of business have had their day.

        Replaced by a bloke with a spare bedroom and a box of components he got cheap, and is now splitting into hobbyist friendly lots.

        CPC are worth using. Free delivery, great range, and real electronic components for a competitive price.

        And they have a nice range of cheap crap to keep the kids happy too.

        Maplin.. Too expensive, too poorly stocked. Too many shop assistants who have no idea about the stock trying to sell extended warranties.

        1. Pypes

          Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

          40p for 1/4 W resistors.

          and only ever 2 in stock.

          They used to be worth keeping around for when you really needed a dozen fast recovery diodes at 4.30 on a Saturday afternoon, nowadays you've got more chance of getting them airlifted over from the popes private stash (which would probably still be cheaper)

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

            They make hardly any profit from their components section.

            Been plenty of talk of shutting that side down.

            1. Mike Pellatt

              Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

              Can't say I'm surprised.

              There's a trail of companies that used to be in components and either walked or died. Mostly the latter.

          2. Linker3000

            Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

            True - I have just bought 100 x 220 ohm 1/4W 5% resistors from another UK supplier for £1.30

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

              It's always been cheaper to buy components in bulk. If you're buying 1-off in shops then what you're paying for is labour costs.

              I used to work for a retailer 30 years ago. Back then we'd buy in boxes of bandolier-packaged 1000 or 5000 philips 1/4W 5% resistors for $5-$10 and sell the individual resistors for 5-7c each, or a 50% discount for 100-up. Ditto on the common components like 1n4148s and 1n4007s (we didn't bother with 1n4001-4004. There's no point when people only want 1A rectifier diodes to hang on the end of a mains transformer and the items were all the same price). Nice little earner when people were building their own stuff. These days that same retailer tends to sell boxes of 1000 resistors to small-run manufacturers and individual component sales are less than 10% of what they were 30 years ago.

              Unsurprisingly, although the box price hasn't changed very much, those same resistors are now 4 times as much in 1-off quantities or are sold in minimum quantitied of 10 or 50.

        2. Mike Pellatt

          Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

          Upvote for your CPC recommendation.

          Though their big catalogue is, well, BIGGGGGG. Received one at work and at home.

        3. John Arthur
          Thumb Up

          Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

          @John Bailey: I too use CPC/Farnell and I also use Rapid Electronics. I have found both to be excellent though cannot comment on their paper catalogues as I have never asked for one. It would cost me too much in impulse purchases!

          1. John Bailey

            Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

            Don't know about Rapid, but the CPC one is big. Phone book big. They sent me one once. My purchase must have been over a certain limit or something.

            Easier to use the website.

        4. Nuke
          Meh

          CPC - Re: I knew that had got expensive... but not THAT expensive!

          But I have become worried about CPC since they started selling tents, bikes and pedal cars. Next, they will discover they can make more money selling women's fashion accessories than selling me electrical components.

          Also, some of their stuff is lousy, as well as some good, but it is hard to tell from the catalogue. I bought some stackable 4mm patch leads, and they would not even fit into each other they were such crap. I would really rather handle such things in a shop before I buy, but even then so much is bubble wrapped these days that you are not supposed to. Still, some of CPC's prices are so low it is worth the risk - I sometimes throw stuff away immediately I receive it, like those patch leads.

          I have the CPC big catalogue, and don't know how I'd manage without it because the website search facility is poor. I have seen stuff in the cat, and ordered it by typing in the cat number, but trying to find the item just by keyword searches fails completely.

          At least CPC's postage is free (for orders >£5).

  4. Headley_Grange Silver badge

    Vouchers

    I remember when the catalogue was a flimsy green affair with about 40 pages and you got vouchers for every £1 you spent. The first time I went to Southend with a girlfriend in the early 80s she couldn't understand why I dragged her off to visit the Maplin shop!

    1. Pete 2 Silver badge

      Re: Vouchers

      Yes, I remember that, too - not your girlfriend, the catalogue. Didn't it have a picture of Concorde on the front cover?

      I also remember being able to send in an order on the Thursday in one of their post-paid first-class envelopes that were included in every order and getting the swag delivered on Saturday morning.

      1. hplasm Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: Vouchers

        Maplin still hold the record for my fastest delivery I have ever experienced -

        ordered something or other online at 2am (not much beer involved either) and it was on the doorstep by 9am The Same Morning...it was about 10 years ago though....

        I was impressed.

    2. Linker3000

      Re: Vouchers

      Yes, I remember those vouchets. In 1981 the MD of Maplin personally arranged for a box of catalogues to be sent to me for sale on our Electronics Club stand at our school Summer fete.

      Sadly the company is a shadow of its former self. How times and hobbies change.

      (Customer #1986)

      1. mfraz

        Re: Vouchers

        I remember in the early 90s placing an order by dialing in to their system and entering my order manually. Can't remember what the system was called though.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vouchers

          "Can't remember what the system was called though."

          That'd probably be Maptel. The Internerd will know for sure.

          Can't remember my customer number but I still had the green catalogue not long ago.

          No idea how they expect the business to survive the next five years though. Apparently their management haven't either.

        2. A J Stiles

          Re: Vouchers

          That would be CASHTEL -- Computer Assisted SHopping by TELephone.

          You just needed a modem, a terminal emulator and a credit card. And somehow I got let loose with all three .....

      2. RubberJohnny

        Re: Vouchers

        Yes, about that time I was using the Maplin catalogue as a component data sheet, it had all the pin-outs and specs. A cut out page in the back had a form to hand write your part numbers and quantities and send off to Rayleigh. Them and the RadioShack/Tandy catalogue, hours of entertainment. Then I started work and discovered RS.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Vouchers

          "using the Maplin catalogue as a component data sheet"

          Yes, it was most spondalicious. Space ships on the front cover and excellent tech information inside. They even listed all the TV transmitters in the UK and which aerial group was required. That wasn't always easy information to get in the pre-internet days.

          As a beginning dabbler in electronics I probably learned as much from reading the Maplin catalogue as I did from books and magazines.

          I should add that like many others, the staff at our local Gateshead/Metro Centre shop are always very helpful and prices are not always that high. I got a pair of 4TB USB3 ext HDDs and their special offer price was the cheapest I could find anywhere on the interwebulator. Ditto when I needed a new tape for the label machine. I guessed which one I needed (forgot to write it down, stupid, I know!). Got in the car to leave and realised it was physically too small so went back in. They went online, found my label machine, confirmed from the pics with me and found the right tape, cancelled the sale and raised a new sale. Excellent service IMO

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Vouchers

          I couldn't believe it when Maplin removed all the good and useful data sheets from the catalog.

          Then the vouchers disappeared. Now it's £3 and we hardly sell any unless you're a pensioner who's not internet savy.

          We hate selling this paper-weight and when Maplin puts on an offer of a 'quid' if you spend more than £20 then we know a new version is about due!

      3. Adrian 4 Silver badge

        Re: Vouchers

        Hobbies are changing back. I've seen more stuff built by enthusiasts in the last 2 years than in the previous 20, and the online stores like Adafruit have fantastic ranges. Hackspaces are everywhere and commercial equivalents (with prices and service to match) are starting up. Maplin is picking up a bit of this : they've embraced the Arduino and Pi genres and have other useful stuff too (as well as the old dreck).

        I do think they still have a use : I might hate to pay 40p for a resistor (by the way, there's a little known discount code that makes buying 10 far more reasonable .. if they actually have 10 in stock) but when it's a choice between buying it locally at the weekend or waiting until tuesday for farnell or Rapid, I'll pay it and smile. Whether they're useful enough to kepp paying the staff is another question.

        1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge

          Re: Hobbies are changing back

          Exactly, was going to say the same myself. Electronics is finally interesting and integrating stuff you make with a computer is now well within reach of most people's ability. And yet most of the kits they sell are 30-year old analog "make a doorbell" type of stuff.

          If I were the new owners of Maplin I'd be doing short courses in the shops on programming arduinos - getting the doorbell to send you an email, or photograph who's at the door. Even non-techies would lap this up - an IT-muggle mate bought one recently to try to temperature control a fan.

          1. Linker3000

            Re: Hobbies are changing back

            Not quite - The Arduino generation can cobble together a bit of code and do a fair amount of simple analogue and digital interfacing, but ask them to throw together a Wien bridge oscillator, whip up a sensor interface with an instrumentation amplifier, generate a sawtooth with a UJT, or calculate the resonant value of an LC tuned circuit and you'll often get a puzzled look, followed by a quick trip to ebay to see if there's a shield for that.

            It's modular hacking and not pure electronics - not that there's anything wrong with that.

            Hobbies are changing - but not quite changing *back*.

            1. Androgynous Cupboard Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: Hobbies are changing back

              Down vote's not from me, I agree completely and here is my puzzled look to prove it -->

              As you say though nothing wrong with that and as a software guy (and now, self-taught hardware one), digital electronics are a hell of a lot more accessible and useful for most. The fact it's largely just assembling smaller bits is precisely why Maplins could do it.

  5. jason 7
    Meh

    Yeah the staff at the Norwich city centre branch are generally a fairly human and helpful bunch. I don't require their assistance but they always say hello and I've never had to jump in to correct when I over hear them giving advice.

    I only use them for emergency "I NEED IT NOW!" stuff and when I do the prices make me wince. Usually its for the odd bits and bobs but now I have Amazon Prime I can order a 5M CAT5.e for half the price and have it turn up 10am the next morning.

    I do wonder at their strategy when I see things like graphics cards selling for £80 in their cabinet that I could get from Amazon or Ebuyer for £30.

    How many £1 special offer keyring screwdrivers do you need to sell to keep you afloat?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      The store on Norwich outer ring road is well placed for me to drop in on the way home if I need something.

      I thought a 5A 2-wire cable connector for repairing a power tool lead a fair price. (certainly far more cost effective than buying the official Black & Decker part). Probably didn't help the bottom line much, but then neither did the £1 torch-on-a-stand I got at the same time.

  6. Suricou Raven

    Maplin?

    They used to sell components, didn't they?

    The last time I went in a Maplin store was for an urgently needed fiber cable - just your basic ST-ST. The staff had no idea what one was, and they didn't keep any in stock. Website only, they said.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Maplin?

      Maplin only hires (mostly) guys fresh from school who are fairly computer literal (not hard these days). But they give no real training. The QA thing they had was a joke. Written by idiots to be filled in by the ignorant (us). So after many complaints it was scrapped. :)

      I'm in my 20s. But as soon as my HND is finished I'll be off and the customer will get an idiot staff member who's just left nursery and can't tell a TOS lead from a Fibre Optic lead. ;)

      We have virtually no older, experienced shop staff. Now ask yourself why that is?

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: Maplin?

      You'd have to be pretty desperate to buy any FC or ethernet cable at a retail.

      Trade pricing through outfits like Insight/misco, etc is usually 50%+ off their catalogue proicing and THAT'S still significantly cheaper than PC whirled or Maplin,

      The going rate for 2m cat6 is about 75p where I buy - booted or snagless and outfits like Maplins pay alot less than that. The margins are incredible, but their sales figures suck and the buyout price reflects it (raising prices to cover for low sales has the effect that only the ignorant or desparate shop there, further depressing figures. I do wander around Maplin from time to time and pick up things if they're cheap but 9/10 visits are sale-less.

      If Gadget Shops can't stay in business, I don't see how Maplins will survive on the high street for much longer.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another way to help their bottom line would be to sell things to mainland Europe.

    A couple of times they have had something I wanted (available in small quantities whereas over here it was only available from wholesalers) but it was, a) only available on line, b) could only be delivered to a UK address and c) they couldn't guarantee a delivery day. Not a very helpful way to do business.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Ahh Maplin - the company that was quite serious when it was selling gold plated car battery connectors and stating that coating the bolt on lead connectors with gold made the ICE sound better....

    1. Mike Pellatt

      Oh yes, remember that.

      They should have patented that business model and then gone after Monster.

    2. Rabbit80

      More recently, I went in to buy a HDMI cable and was told the gold plating would improve the picture quality.

  9. Tom 7 Silver badge

    I've always found the cheapest way to fund a Maplin project

    was to buy the finished article elsewhere and dismantle it while drunk so its a challenge to put it together again.

    Its cheaper - even including the alcohol.

  10. Joe 37

    In the early 80's they quite happily posted stuff to me in Zambia. For a sensible P&P cost. But they weren't an expensive tat bazaar at the time.

  11. PhillW

    Not as expensive as...

    Radio shack!

    I used to have to shoplift from there just to complete a project!

  12. Andy Taylor

    What about Electronics - The Maplin Magazine?

    I am surprised no one else has mentioned the magazine, a mixture of tech news, product reviews and projects to build yourself from parts purchased in-store. It was sold off and met a sad demise in early 2002.

    The Maplin catalogue also used to have a handy reference for all the TV and radio antenna in the UK with frequency and band group information to help you choose the right aerial.

    1. David Hicklin

      Re: What about Electronics - The Maplin Magazine?

      Still got most of mine, although they are mostly scaned to PDF these days (along with ETI an several other mags - those were the days). Still refer to them for ideas.

      As for Maplin, can still remember placing orders in the 1970's via mail with my Mum writing out the cheques as I was still ar school at the time. Was quite proud of my original customer numer - 968 - before they changed the systems.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Gutted

    In 1985, at the age of 10, I discovered the Maplin Catalogue and Everyday Electronics / Maplin Electronics magazines. For me, Maplin was an invaluable source of components for my first steps into the disciplines of electronics and computing. Living in the depths of Cornwall, the opportunity to visit a store was a real treat out. I REALLY WANTED the HERO robot kits from the first time I set eyes on them (no chance being able to afford one of those as a kid).

    I infrequently drag my kids into the "new" Maplin as we pass by, hoping that their imagination may be ignited by something that they discover inside. Unfortunately, I feel it is a hollow shell of what it once was. This is odd considering the burgeoning maker community. There is an opportunity here to be something more than a competitor to the ebay merchants or a seller of tat. To my mind, Maplin should re-hire (and expand) their technical authors and start trends in the maker community once more, rather than just follow them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gutted

      I can understand where you come from, but your hope for igiting interest in the kids is misplaced.

      Please bear in mind who has purchased the outfit. Theyre called VC (Vulture capitalists - for a reason).

      They will want and seek a return on investment and "unlocking" value means disposals (of staff and premises). Then cash up and go home is their invariable motto.

      The maker community is well served online now. (remember Comet's demise)? Even CPW is merging with Curry's.

      SO unless Maplins has a drastic game plan (prices and availability of stuff people want), I dont hold much hope for its survival in current form.

    2. Les Matthew

      Re: Gutted

      Wireless World.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electronics_World

      http://www.douglas-self.com/ampins/wwarchive/wwarchive.htm

      http://www.keith-snook.info/wireless-world-magazine/wireless-world-articles.html

      Now, where's the "get off my lawn icon" :)

  14. Davie Dee

    I used to work for the company and before anyone thinks im just out to rant because of bitterness I left on my own accord for better prospects and on good terms, but its a disgrace how its gone downhill, the company lost experience in favour of youthful joyfulness, it sacrificed specialism with random tat not worthy of selling even in China and opened dozens of new units to help its bottom line for short term success.

    They lost respect from customers by using said youth to punt £120 HDMI cables (I kid you not, those monster cables they (used?) to sell for about £40-120, yup, buy price of 30p-£1.30. Many of the sales persons refused to sell it in favour of repeat customer sales but these folk were slowly thinned out until we were left with polite and joyful sales persons who literally couldn't wire a three pin mains plug.

    Maplin is going through an identity crisis, much like woollies did, it wants its fingers in everything, toys, electronics, music, tools, comms and networking, computers, you name it, but without any worth while staff to back it up its largely seen as a joke, its not landing anything at all with any real success and needs to be more directed and focused, it will never compete on toys with the bigger stores.

    The stores do look better, I give them that, but it needs to drastically change because its market base is forever shrinking, the one thing Maplin has the potential to do that the internet cant compete with is competent staff capable of helping customers, I think we need to get back to a smaller refined company that delivers service, that can installer that car radio they just bought if they choose to pay for it, scale back now, before they lose the lot, then look at strategy for moving forward. Sadly the people at the top that can make a difference are the ones that can cut and run, the people on the sales floor, numpties or not, take the brunt for their bosses mistakes.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      That happened to me in Radio Shack in Canada. Some kid came in, on his way to college in a few weeks, wanting a small HiFi. I demo'ed some Minimus 7s and a tiny Realistic amplifier and a similar foot-print CD player & tape deck but I advised the guy to avoid the Realistic tape deck, which was average sounding, in favour of a great sounding Yamaha from a rival shop next door. The guy went out without buying anything, went next door, the manager gave me a real rollicking as soon as he was out of ear shot, but 30 minutes later the guy walked back in and took the lot, including the tape deck, because he decided size was more important that the better sound on the tape deck. The manager apologised - and so she should have done; I had five years sales experience in the UK, which is how I got the job, and I understand the importance of a happy customer, and making sure that the customer doesn't think they are just the target for another sales person.

      1. Davie Dee

        Absolutely, the issue is, from a business perspective, they want money in the till now, they don't look past the end of their noses for long term trade, and you know what, even if your customer did bugger off to get it else where, so what, you can bet your arse the next time his looking to get something he will remember your name, the fact is you cant beat internet prices when you have staff to pay for so you absolutely must nail the sales and service side, otherwise there is little point in trying, all they are doing is managing the decline of a company.

        Offering semi good service isn't good either, they will take your advice and buy else where, sales staff need to build a relationship with a customer in that kind of business, if nothing else then to make the customer feel bad for not spending their money there. But they will spend it given the right motivation. Maplin seems to think more shops full of more junk and toys is the answer, its been that way for over a decade now and look what good its done them.

  15. Down not across Silver badge

    Building online portion

    He was quick to point out today that Maplin is working to build the online portion of its business, as many old world retailers have belatedly done.

    They've had it for years. And its been one of the most painful sites to use. Not to mention the prices are not competitive at alll. Far from it.

    Ability to pop over on saturday morning to pick up something you urgently need is something of value of course.

    As for buying electronics components I find CPC and RS much better choice. They have decent selelction and actually have stuff in stock.

    1. Eaten Trifles
      FAIL

      Re: Building online portion

      The Maplin internet site is truly awful for buying components. I was after a transistor the other day. The search returned a fairly pathetic 27 products, but the worst thing was trying to find the one I needed. I could refine my search by, er, price range, depth, height, width, weight, cable length or, get this, star rating. Star fucking rating! Who on earth wants to choose a transistor on the basis of popularity?

      The old Maplin catalogue used to include a table of transistors, a damn sight more than 27 of them too, listing the things you might actually want to select a transistor on the basis of. Such as case style, type, polarity, current gain, power dissipation, breakdown voltage, etc.

      Anyway I was in a rush so eventually worked out which one I needed and popped into my local branch to collect it. It was out of stock.

      I too buy online from CPC or Farnell now; both do free delivery. CPC is cheaper and you only need a minimum order of £5. I think it's closest to what Maplin used to be. Farnell needs a minimum spend of £20 but has a much wider range of stock available.

  16. Mike Shepherd
    Meh

    Online

    "...Maplin is working to build the online portion of its business, as many old world retailers have belatedly done".

    Maplin had online ordering (via a 300 baud connection) at least as early as 1983, although orders placed at the weekend might not be processed until Tuesday, which made you wonder why they provided the service at all.

  17. Mage Silver badge

    Too much junk

    It's improved slightly recently

    But too much junk, too much crap "boys toys" too many dodgy bits of kit that you wonder about the CE

    In Ireland (6 shops?) Consistently too much stuff that is for UK market and doesn't work at all here or even illegal (CE ! gear)

    Massively overpriced.

    I unless they stop trying to compete with a Franken imaginary combination Poundland-B&Q-PCWorld they are doomed. They need to do better tools, Chinese EBay prices (it's the EXACT same stuff) and compete with RS & Farnell etc.

    The Disco & Sound & PA and Security & Security TV & Hobby / Ham Radio are good categories, but need to be done properly.

    1. andreas koch
      Meh

      @ Mage - Re: Too much junk

      You do know that the only reason they are still there is because they sell the overpriced toy rubbish?

      You can't live off selling 3x1N4001, 2xBC237, few resistors and 2 LEDs on the high street.

      Sad, but true: the Maplin days are over. As an 'electronics' store anyway, the name might carry on as a gadget place...

      Just my personal opinion.

  18. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Electronics retail chain Maplin ..

    > Electronics retail chain Maplin has been sold to a private equity firm for £85million - just a third of what it was acquired for a decade ago.

    Reminds me of when I used order stuff mail-order, that was back-in-the-day of the terr'ist alert, lucky for the establishment I was more interested in making light-activated devices than blowing-up the infrastructure ..

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It used to be handy for the odd item that you needed there and then however now I don't even bother.

    The last time I was in cheap (but overpriced) tat had overtaken and they were still selling severely outdated computer components at silly prices. I'm pretty sure they still had AGP graphics cards..

  20. This post has been deleted by its author

  21. Caesarius
    Unhappy

    B&Q used to be my friend...

    ... but not any more. There are still some knowledgeable staff, but the prices for materials puts me off every time.

    I still browse Maplin's stores, but it's increasingly disappointing. It's trying to go the way of B&Q, except that their business model for selling components needs a big re-think.

    Is it just me, and other enthusiasts from the 70's and 80's, or do younger folk prefer wall to wall dusty shelves choc-full of components?

  22. Dieter Haussmann

    We'ew showing as having 210 stores in stock, but I can't find them, I can get them in for Tuesday.

  23. Snobol4

    They started as predominently mail order

    The interesting thing is Maplin started life mainly as a mail order outfit (based in Southend) selling from a catalogue (which used to be interesting reading for the electronics hobbyist back in the 70s).

    One would have thought that "online" is simply going back to Maplin's roots - mail order.

    Back then it was mainly components, not finished goods. They opened up a few regional "shops" (I remember the one behind Brewers on London Rd, Bromley) that were more like walk-in warehouses, but then they seemed to shrink back to mail order. Not sure what happened to enable them to appear in force on the high street.

    I hope they survive - if only for memories sake!

  24. The Godfather
    Holmes

    Maplin still retains some of the old charm and wisdom but the question remains, how long will its model stand the test of time.

    At an operational level, the business was and possibly still remains, one of the most profitable retail business I came across with gross margin of more than 50%. Having said that, bank covenants given the debt in the ultimate parent demanded such margins.

    I've always found what I want in their stores and staff attitude and attentiveness has been first class. Hope this new level of debt above and intangible assets does not dilute the value and the risk in the business more than before as this would spell trouble.

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