You cant have it both ways
You cant lament the passing of a store selling legacy gear, whilst at the same time arguing you can get the regular stuff "cheaper online".
If you dont support them, a business will fold.
Credit insurers are cutting their exposure to geek emporium Maplin Electronics amid some reports of declining profit and wider concerns about old-school retailing. Trade indemnifier QBE slashed available cover on Maplin by more than 80 per cent in September and has just removed the limit completely, meaning distributors will …
I agree, but Maplin just take the piss with their pricing.
Although I agree there's a "premium" to be added for having retail units, staff etc. Maplin pricing is ridiculous for just about everything. Most of the stuff they sell isn't even current lines (perhaps a couple of years old and superseded) and they still try to sell it for more than the current version.
Add to that the fact they charge £15 plus for a cable I can order from eBay for £1 with free postage and next day delivery then it's no surprise they are going down the shitter.
I go in to our local store maybe once a month, laugh out loud at the prices then order anything I fancy online when I get home.
If they added a small extra then it wouldn't matter, but the fact they charge so much for utter junk will ultimately seal their fate.
They do have the odd practice of having their 'basic' brand HDMI 1M cable at £5.99 in corners of the gondoliers well away from the HDMI cable section.
They'd do this with lots of cables. Bizarre immoral practice in my opinion.
Their most profitable item is a litre of ISO alcohol for £12. They pay a quid for it.
If you have any questions, just ask. I was a frontline sales assistant for 10 years.
You cant lament the passing of a store selling legacy gear, whilst at the same time arguing you can get the regular stuff "cheaper online".
It's a different model I suppose, but Screwfix seems to be doing ok in having real shops that match their online prices, and Richer Sounds has been doing it for years. The difference between these two and the likes of Maplin may simply be in the style and locations of their shops - Maplin went for high-profile town-centre and out-of-town locations, big shops with everything on display. Richer Sounds and Screwfix have small shops in cheap locations.
At one point Richer Sounds made a big thing of the fact that their London Bridge store held the world record for volume of sales per square foot of shop, I wonder if that's still the case?
I do lament the passing of the "old days", of companies like Maplin, Watford Electronics, Cricklewood Electronics (still going I believe), but things change. I think it started going downhill when Maplin stopped putting creative paintings and accompanying descriptions on their catalogue covers though!
Maplin made a point of setting up near Halfords. Similar customer profile.
Customers would everyday moan about PC World prices and lack of Sales staff with a working Brain.
It became a sort of joke with us.
But Maplin moved very slowly, almost glacier like. Their Web site was bloody awful and despite staff complaining about it for over 6 years, it never got any better despite various looks changed.
There are obviously no technical people at the top.
Backed by Kingfisher (aka B&Q) I find their prices higher than B&Q. I was in the market for a sack-barrow earlier in the year. B&Q was £3.99 cheaper.
Near me is a B&Q Warehouse and less than 100yds away is a Screwfix. Yes much smaller but also far less stock choice than in B&Q and you have to go right past B&Q to get to screwfix.
"Backed by Kingfisher (aka B&Q) I find their prices higher than B&Q. I was in the market for a sack-barrow earlier in the year. B&Q was £3.99 cheaper."
The tools I find are cheaper at Screwfix than B&Q.
But either side of where I live we have a B&Q, a Screwfix and a Tradestation all next to each other. So I end up looking across the three of them for something and pick the cheapest. More often than not for what I've needed recently (sandpaper, screws, a hammer and some glue - it was a glorious weekend) Tradestation were cheaper.
I think the change in attitudes haven't helped.
The Maplins are now toy shops.
Ten tears ago instead of buying their overpriced network cables you just went to the back and had the cable monkey make one from scratch. These days the cable monkey can't terminate ends.
If push comes to shove it's a great place for emergency buys. But it lost its way, it should be the champion of home kits and DIY not ready assembled drones.
I've written about this before but I went to Maplin (pre DSO) for some CTF100 to make a cable for the TV of my aging aunt. The Chelsea Flower Show would be on the red button in a few days and the aerial cable they had going into the TV was produced I think pre-war (Vietnam but might have been earlier). Sadly when they'd replaced the tv circa 1980s vintage they hadn't changed the cables and were mostly watching analogue. The signal at the house was very marginal for digital signals and I selected a nice long length of cable that I could make up into several smaller cables of the correct length. The girl at the till took the nicely coiled length of cable and despite my explaining it was a 4m length insisted she had to measure it. I said she could ask her colleague how much he'd cut but no it was stretched out to check. It was then not coiled again but she bent it at various points way past 90° to get it into the plastic carrier bag.
I explained that I no longer wanted the now bagged cable because it was no longer as effective as a cable. She remonstrated with me that the cable was perfectly fine and I had to buy it now it was cut. I said I wasn't having that cable and she could call a manager if needed to resolve this. The manager (who was apparently on a smoke break came to the till and I explained why I was unhappy. He listened patiently and offered to straighten the cable out again which I said wouldn't work and explained why. He said I knew more about this than him and whilst he was happy to exchange it he would need to explain it to head office. We visited the web and I found a site backing up my claims which he noted down and added to the computer. He then personally cut 4.5m as a gesture of goodwill, told her it was 4m. I ordered a reel off CPC for future use after that. So roll on the Flower Show and we do indeed get a decent digital signal, red button (or whatever it was called back then) and all. Sadly they had Allan Titchmarsh presenting who is not popular with my aunt. He just spoke to celebrities about their gardening ability rather than looking at the gardens in the show which just made her angry. Don't know why I bothered really.
At one point they did have people in my local one who were knowledgeable but they all got better paying jobs. About the only thing that was really good about Maplin was if you needed something that day and a new store had just opened near you. They stocked the new ones with at least one of nearly everything in the catalogue so you could just turn up for a week afterwards and they'd normally have it in stock.
"It was then not coiled again but she bent it at various points way past 90° to get it into the plastic carrier bag."
When rewiring my flat I needed 25m of 16mm cable. *NOT* 25 one-metre lengths, but a 25-metre length. I had to snatch the cable out of the sales assistant's hands before he folded it into one-metre lengths for me.
Yes, I 100% agree. You see Maplin doesn't really train their staff. They have a few silly sheets of what an item is.
But they certainly never mention anything about bend radius.
Had a customer who laid out 50M of 75 Ohm video cable to his CB aerial in his garden.
He'd came in wanting a little more. Of course I asked what it was for and was a little shocked that he thought the video cable being cheaper that the 50 Ohm would do him.
He admitted he thought the range of his rig wasn't very good.
Turns out he didn't know what a
SWR meter was either.
I found most CB enthusiasts, mainly Taxi operators, didn't know about them or think they were necessary.
Myself being a qualified Electronics Craftsman, I'd often give technical advice in my shop. I'd sometimes be asked to give advice.
But the kids that Maplin would hire were mostly males. Mainly due to them applying for the job. The few Women I came across were intelligent and very capable of learning new stuff. But the guys, sadly not so much.
Despite me being a trained IT Professional as well, the Manager would direct a customer to a 19 year old to explain Computers which annoyed the hell out of me.
Maplin never, ever made up cables for customers.
We weren't insured for it and certainly never trained to do it.
Sure a few shops thought they would offer this service unofficially. But I wouldn't trust a cable made on the spot by staff who don't understand the technical idiosyncrasies of terminating cables depending on type.
And the b&q mob nearly killed Screwfix. They’re still working on it. When it was owned and run by Goddard -Watts (IIRR the name) it was superb. After the sellout I phoned up about a missing item to be proudly told something like "not surprised - we sent out an empty box the other day"
Tradestation? do you mean Toolstation? 'Twas started I believe by G-W's son. Has now, I think got some significant investment from whoever is behind Wickes. At least Toolstation's bloody website works properly. Fugly, but fast and does the job, and does it well. Screwedup, on the other hand ...
Maplin relied almost exclusively on Rolson for it's tools.
Basically cheap and sometimes nasty.
They're idea of going to higher quality tools was bringing in German tools that no one had heard of. Most were only available from their Web site.
What baffled me was that the way Maplin packaged and presented them. No reason given why a customer would buy this model over another.
I suggested, from talking to Tradesmen who'd come in for a decent tool, that you put the hardness rating of the screwdriver metal on display therefore allowing the customer to make an informed decision.
This went unheeded apparently.
If you want to build up a reputation for selling something, you don't just offer it
One of my retro possessions is a Maplin catalog from something like 1979 (this was while they were still only mail-order).
It's really funny, but if you get a recent one (do they still publish one on paper? - my last copy was from about 2012), many, many of the item listings, pictures etc. are exactly the same in both catalogs.
The one thing you do notice, however, is how much smaller the newer catalog is, even with the new products that did not exist in the older catalog. Whole sections have pretty much disappeared. I used to use the older catalog as a pinout reference for 7400TTL and 4000 CMOS chips, as it had full schematics for almost the complete series. It also used to have a pretty good transistor equivalence section, and pictures of all of the semiconductor packaging types.
I used Maplin because they were more friendly to hobbyists than RS Components or Farnell (although I did use Watford Electronics as well), but also because I read the magazine Electronics Today International (ETI), and Maplin used to make up packs of all of the components, and some printed case inserts for many of the ETI projects. The full modular polyphonic digital synthesizer, which ran over about 2 years, one module per month was a really major project that resulted in a very usable device, but they did multi-channel mixers, guitar pedals, high quality audio and PA equipment, and even a computer develop kit as projects as well, and Maplin sold all of the kits of parts.
IIRC, for several years, the catalog was pretty much the same year-on-year, with the price list published separately, and new products published in addenda with the price list. If you bought regularly, you would get sent the price list when it changed, and I think it was also sometimes attached to ETI.
I agree wholeheartedly, as a kid at school, the maplin catalogue was a treasure trove of odd chips and the data in there normally enough to get you going, SN74677 sound generators for example. Adding ideas from ETI, filters and keyboard circuits, gave me my first working synth. I think they lost their way when the money men moved in and slashed the component count held in store and replaced them with plastic tractors and kids toys, just as Tandy did before them.
No, Maplin virtually disappeared in the Nineties because you can't have a shop selling 50p items which have to be collected and bagged by a nontechnical assistant. Maplin'said attitude to the component section was it was a necessary evil.
You simply don't make a long lasting profit from this stuff.
If it hadn't branched out into toys. It would have evaporated decades ago.
Takes me back. Who remembers all the G.W. Smith shops in Lisle Street (at least three IRC), plus Odeon Radio in Harrow? Weirdest shop (good prices though) was Chromasonic Electronics which was operated from a sweet shop in Fortis Green Road. You have the vision of them scooping up resistors and sticking them on the scales, along with the fruit salads and black jacks. Talking of kits... who remembers Heathkit in Tottenham Court Road.
EDIT I seem to remember GW Smith and Henrys having quite large catalogs in those days too.
Bought my first Mullard 'OC', and Ediswan 'top-hat', transistors from Henry's Radio (still have them).. Lisle Street only had 'surplus' kit (but beautiful at that, and so heavy to take home) and finally only Proops in TCR could deliver. Now nobody knows what any given 'chip' can do, and they couldn't solder it if they did. EndEx.
Yes, Lisle Stree was magic - and the top end of Tottenham Court Road. Still have various odds and ends from GWS, including the teak sleeve case for my Leak valve pre-amp, retrieved from the back of their stockroom, I think in their closing-down sale when Lasky's took over. Before that they'd bought a load of old Vortexion valve PA amps from me and my mates, acquired in a highly dodgy auction from the old ILEA. The past is another country....
The Henrys catalogue was a gem. Costing 7shillings and six pence and containing five 2 shilling vouchers each redeemable when spending a pound. I remember going into the Edgware road shop and asking for an Akai 4000DS tape deck and 18 catalogues, which would have got me just over two pounds discount (and a lot of couponless catalogues to give away outside the shop). In the end I was given a fiver off and just the one catalogue. To put that in perspective, that fiver would then have (and probably did!) purchased more than 25 pints of beer.
Yes, they had a small shop in Westcliff when it first started. Run by the husband and wife team who started the whole thing. Was a great shop for electronic hobbyists like me, with knowledgeable staff and a huge stock of bits and pieces. Stayed like that for years then started expanding and opening new stores. At some point it lost its 'hobbyist' focus and became a toy-shop.
They still have a store in Westcliff, almost opposite the original first shop, but it's much bigger and rarely seems to have any of the components I want in stock when I visit.
They've also got a bigger store near the Waitrose in Thorpe Bay.
I like to be able to browse for things and see them in the flesh, and that one is generally a little better for stock - not great though. I'll pay extra for that versus buying online, in order to support bricks and mortar shops. I'll also pay for the instant gratification of walking out of the shop with what I want.
The trouble that Maplins and other retailers, such as as Currys, have is that they don't often stuff in stock. If you're lucky there's a display unit and they offer to order it in. At that point I might as well order online - the whole point of an actual shop is being able to buy things...
Remember Cirkit? Buy the catalogue in Smiths and order away to your heart's content.
I'm afraid I won't lament the passing of Maplin. They've been extracting the urine on prices for years and their products really aren't much cop, either. Take that "temperature controlled" soldering station with a triac chopper circuit and no tip feedback. It's temperature controlled only in that you can vary how fast the tip loses heat to a joint. Worse, it wipes out anything below 30MHz any time it is switched on. Awful bloody thing, and that's just one example.
I used to work for Watford Electronics, albeit when they were computer component box shifters rather than electrical component suppliers.
It was the bit in between where they excelled - turning those components into genuinely useful stuff, such as their 8271 and 1770 disc interfaces for the BBC Micro, "sideways" ROM expansion boards with battery-backed RAM etc. I even had (probably still have in a box somewhere) a WE handheld 4" wide scanner for my Archimedes - ok, so they didn't make the scanner head, but they did design and build the interface card.
Box shifting is a mug's game...
So, Maplin has changed ownership at least 3 times since I started with them in the 80's...
That makes me feel less guilty about the fact I feel they are now like Tandys was at the time... Handy for quickly sourcing some obscure valued resistor, but otherwise hosting overpriced stuff you'd never want... And back then, Tandys didn't have the internet to compete with.
Personally... let them fold. The jobs will go elsewhere (warehouse packings, shippers, delivery staff, telesales etc.) rather than disappear entirely.
Then maybe the high-streets will die back. And we can have restaurants etc. again, or 24 hour shopping centres. And all the rest can be turned back into the housing it once was.
Many things annoy me about modern life but being able to walk into a shop after work, or phone up a company when I get home, or pick up my parcels sometime outside 9.01am-4:59pm Mon-Fri.... that's quite nice. But how many shops do I need? Not many. Just the basics. Everything else I can schedule and have brought to me when I choose... that's called progress. For the last 10-15 years I've done all my Christmas shopping online. God, I'd HATE doing Christmas shopping in an actual line of shops... do people still do that?
And if we're not using them, then they can't survive, so why bother to try? What are you going to do, subsidise the high-street? Sell it off, use it as housing, then you might have people who actually live in these fake city-centres rather than just shop there during the day and get drunk of an evening.
A place to park (hey, if only there were a big Maplin store we could convert into a car park or resident parking?).
Cheaper and more convenient purchases.
Seems like a no-brainer to me. And judging by most town centres, nobody is going to lament the loss of those huge pedestrianised areas dedicated to Marks & Spencer and/or regurgitating kebabs.
Hell, build a ginormous post-office, a 24 hour supermarket, an Amazon dropbox thing, a petrol station, a pharmacy (could all be same place for all I care) and convert the rest into housing. Done. Don't even need a bank nowadays - totally pointless in the modern era anyway. 14 estate agents in the same street, though. And lots of gambling dens, just lately - I imagine the licensing laws have been relaxed because it's that or empty shops. Usually there are more estate agents than places for rent in or near that street, in fact, which I find ironic.
Hell, my road has no less than 4 pharmacies and it's only a tiny back road. I honestly can't work that one out.
I just hope that the incomparable convenience and customer service of online ordering will kill off all such places, and maybe then we'll get towns again. Rather than the same ten shops in a row, and a bank with no staff.
Our kids are going to think that actually going into a shop is "quaint" and a novelty by the time they're my age. I can't say that I would fight for them to have access to such things. A library, yes, but we closed those all down because they aren't profitable "and the internet".
Town pubs are dying off.
Post offices are dead.
Most conventional shops are dead.
Banks are gutted shells now.
But my shopping arrives tonight, and I can't say I begrudge the poor guy the £3 delivery charge for saving me half-an-hour's drive, an hour pissing about with a trolley, then several re-packs of my groceries to the till, to the car, to my house, to the cupboards, and not having to contend with a single queue or idiot who can't remember their PIN or wants to hold up the queue while they go back for a different bottle of bleach.
If we could just kill off ticket offices at rail stations and turn them into parcel-collection points, I'll be a happy man, and I don't even take the train any more.
"And lots of gambling dens, just lately - I imagine the licensing laws have been relaxed because it's that or empty shops."
That's because the most profitable part of a betting shop is the fixed odds betting terminal (computer roulette). There is a massive usage of them by a combination of gambling addicts and people laundering money. To curb this, they are limited to a set number (4 IIRC) per shop. So it's profitable to open a second shop next to the current one, just for the FOBT.
"Gambling dens... I imagine the licensing laws have been relaxed because it's that or empty shops. "
Paradoxically it's because the laws were tightened to only allow 2-3 fixed odds machines in each premises. The parasitical things are so fantastically profitable that if William Hill et al could put 5 completely shops in a row along the street, they'd do it. Various local authorities have been trying to stop the spread of betting shops and found that they can't use "there are already too many" as a reason.
In the meantime people who can't afford to spend money pump what they don't have into the machines in the hopes of a mega payout which is simply what all the other suckers put into it too, minus a scalping for Mr Hill and friends.
The overall average payout is about 87% of what goes in - but it's like having 10 apples, giving them all to 1 person in a group of 10 people and saying that on average they have one apple each.
Online sales in 2016 were only around13% of total sales. It’s footfall in the high street and management of costs that are the problem. There was a hefty increase in both people and premises costs in 2016 that needs to result in higher sales otherwise the debt becomes more difficult to service.
Maplin have gone out of their way to lose me as an avid customer over the years. I used to buy tons of electronic components off them in my youth, the days of the catalogues (with sci-fi covers) and no internet. All until the day when they were out of stock of one of the items I ordered, which brought the size of my order below the minimum needed for free delivery, so they deducted a delivery charge too which meant they also removed more items from my order as the cheque no longer covered everything. Didn't buy anything off them for years after that.
Recently tried to buy some specialist cable from their website, but when I added it to my basket it insisted that I select my local Maplin store rather than allowing me to purchase it mail order. Bizarre. As the nearest Maplin store is some ten miles away I abandoned my order and purchased the cable from CPC instead.
"Reg readers are fond of "Maplins" as one of the few remaining outlets that allows electronics hobbyists to browse legacy components, cables, semiconducters, graphics cards and motherboards while scouting out the latest drones, 3D printers and more. Compared to Dixons Carphone and other old-world retailers, Maplin still has a reputation for customer service."
(Concerning the bit I put in bold.) Well, yes, I suppose that's correct - but in that vein, one could also say "Compared to the box containing a warm dog turd on a spring, the mismatched, extra small, white nylon socks were a tasteful and much appreciated gift."
I didn't even use them that much, but my last experience was typical - needed a USB micro SD card reader that hour, shop assistant tried to sell me something about £15 saying that was "...as cheap as that sort of thing gets" but on the exact same rack there was a tiny one that cost £8.something. Yeah, they're circling the drain.
@S4qFBxkFFg:needed a USB micro SD card reader that hour, shop assistant tried to sell me something about £15 saying that was "...as cheap as that sort of thing gets"
What a pisstake.
Maplin must not know that you can buy card readers and related tat in Poundland or Poundstretcher.
one could also say "Compared to the box containing a warm dog turd on a spring, the mismatched, extra small, white nylon socks were a tasteful and much appreciated gift."
You bastard! You total f***ing bastard! I've just spewed a gobfull of decent red wine all over my Chromebook because of you. I'm not happy with the loss of the wine, and the Chromebook's looking a bit sorry too. Bastard.
Went to Maplin recently to pick-up a SPST toggle switch, only to find all the component hobbyist items have been removed from the shop floor.
Presumably, this is to make way for high margin smart home stuff.
Later added said switch to an order from a Raspberry Pi reseller whilst buying a stack of other stuff that Maplin simply don't sell.
They've missed a trick in not being the go-to high street RPi supplier and educator.
I'm sure high street retail space is expensive, but stores risk losing otherwise loyal customers if they hide all the boring but essential items away in the basement.
In my local Maplin they have put them in drawers. Apparently hidden but they are still there.
The component desk is the best bit about Maplin though, it's the only place you can find individual components in a hurry, and at not too bad prices (for a hobbyist low volume kind of thing).
Totally agree with the comments about cable pricing etc. It would be a shame if the high prices forced them to disappear, losing the source of components.
I wish they'd stuck with that, and maybe tools, cables and things (though without the markup that makes them ridiculous - I've just noticed they have a 'maplin essentials' range which seems not unreasonable, but not really seen it in shops, it's the impression of £20 HDMI cables that's stuck). The things that always puzzled me were, 1. as someone has pointed out, they would stock computer gear which gets outdated fairly rapidly (motherboards and the like) and never discount it, so you would find last generation stock still priced at its release price, 2. the various electronic gear (microphones and things) which were generally low end consumer grade but also priced up a bit too far.
High street prices for flash memory / USB sticks are an interesting case study in electronics pricing, supermarkets and Rymans currently sell a bit better than 2GB/£ (cheap enough I never buy them online and have sometimes just picked them up because they have them), while Boots and Maplin both < 1GB/£.
But often, the component desk has less than half-a dozen of each component. I went in to get some capacitors to do an emergency rebuild of a TV power supply, and whilst they had most of them, I ended up buying their complete stock of a couple of the values I needed, and they did not have any of one of them. I ended up having to buy two of the 1/2 value capacitors, and wire them in parallel until I could get the correct one.
If you had a complete project, I would doubt that you would get all of the parts in one visit.
I used to love browsing Maplin and other electronic stores looking at components. Now Maplins just seems to offer high-street type products like drones, H-Fi, computer accessories and other consumer stuff. Browsing their store takes 30 seconds nowadays rather than half an hour. I did email my "local" store a while ago asking if they'd got a particular component in stock, but never got a reply, so I bought elsewhere. As I mentioned in a post above, Maplins have gone out of their way to lose me as a customer one way or another.
When I was a kid you could go into a hardware store and buy everything you needed to make (say) a go-cart.Now the only way to make a go-cart is to buy one and hope you can take it apart - you wont be able to without breaking some irreplaceable part.
When I was a kid you could pop into the local electrical store and buy everything to make a radio except the marquetry fascia which you could get from the hardware store or toy shop.
I have looked at getting involved in maker spaces and things and making a raspberry pi controlled on-line conveyor belt thingy for filling orders for small projects so the cheapest way to make stuff is not to deconstruct flow-soldered equipment.
No idea about Maplins, but here in the USA RadioShack was big and they folded their DiY stock nearly 20 years ago. They still exist mainly by selling cell phones, but the writing is on the wall.
These stores are just past consumer interest and are pushing ibto niche. Candle makers, paper printing pressers, buggy carpenters and even disco* are just some of many that have passed.
*I would argue that disco never died, it just mutates to survive. However, how you mutate HDMi cables and similar crap is beyond me... but Maplins best get dancin'!
Tandy were here too, they franchised into existing independent electronics outlets that did TV repair. I could pick up a Tandy catalogue and they would order the stuff in for me.
But Maplin was an annual thing, their catalogue would show up in the newsagents and I got it on day one and geeked out on the mini datasheets for early IC packages and transistors. Then to order you would fill a form cut out of the last page of the book with product codes, mail it off, and they would send you your next order form with your delivery.
"Over here we had Tandy (same as radioshack)"
FYI, Tandy was the original name and parent of RadioShack. The Tandy Leather Corporation or some such name and is the T in TRS-80 computer range. The original did shoe leather then moved into the hobbyist leathercraft market and then other craft markets. RadioShack was just another hobbyist market and not such a great shift really. Selling the stuff people want to make things with.
Some things wildly overpriced, others quite reasonable. I wouldn't quite say they haven't moved with the times - they practically deluge my mailbox with offers, and frankly not everyone wants to go into an electronics store.
Last purchase was this https://www.maplin.co.uk/p/worldwide-60w-acdc-multi-voltage-power-supply-l11bq
4A, multi voltage switchable supply. I looked at other places but the quality seemed variable elsewhere..
Mind you, I'm in the market for a soldering iron that can solder wires onto a surface mount EPROM. Have to see if I'm going to Maplin or Ebay for a decent model, as I'm not sure if my 25W standard tip iron is the best option to prevent destroying a 140 quid of graphics card..
I still have my old Weller TCP with a varied selection of bits (both size and temperature). Only thing I need more oomph for I used a RS Butane soldering iron which even works well in windy outdoor situations.
Was quite an expense when I bought them but over the years any regret has been well and truly beaten down.
I think the amended title clarifies things. I take no pleasure in saying it, when the company is clearly circling the drain, but this fate has been an obvious inevitability for years. Our local Maplin is always empty when I drop in, too often (as others have already said) the products are inferior quality, out of stock, or obscenely over-priced.
Some Maplin stores do quite well I suspect, the one on Manchester Oxford Road has a large student catchment area, and other people who need something electronic now - especially power supplies, cables and suchlike. It's usually got a few people in it.
They're always quite helpful, so I can only imagine this is what their target market appreciates. For pure supply of product on the high street Argos could probably wipe them out without a thought. Maplin are probably better at interconnecting stuff and getting things going again than anywhere else on the high street.
I will be sad to see them go, though, both for history and the fact that they occasionally have Weird Stuff in, or unpopular products priced low. Want to add Firewire or USB to your system? Various products are running cheaper than online, assuming you're near a store that has stock.
Another power supply (not a bad price), a bargain bin molex to SATA power for cabling, a 1.5m 4 pin Thinkpad Firewire to 6 pin Firewire cable (3 quid, but 3m is 24 quid. Hahahaha nope), and a labelling machine (decent cost). Not too bad providing you google to check things, the 1.5m cable they had to fetch from the back..
From my experience they sell quite a lot of items at better prices than Amazon or Currys, and they pay decent cashback rates and give out plenty of decent vouchers. I will miss them if they go, and so will everyone else here. Less choice = higher prices.
( ...and don't get me started on ebay tat... I remember laughing at my colleague who insisted £1 ebay hdmi cables were as good as any other because "they're all just digital connections". He ended up buying a mid-priced one like the rest of us )
Oh dear,.... last time I swerved by Maplin for a 'catalogue' it was a rather thin affair, a far cry from the Yellow Pages sized behemoth I could quite happily browse through with a mug of tea, musing on projects I'd never get around to.
I can't even find a recent .pdf on their web site, the one I found was dated 2015.
Browsing components isn't a great experience, just looked up some LEDs, the power output for some looks dubious, and the units are often duplicated, or mixed (one said 1w mWmW) clearly nobody faintly technical has vetted the web site. When I buy components I nee to be confident they are what they say they are,.... mixed messages and confused units really don't help.
And i bet the catalogue's gone up to over a fiver now too
Worked their while i was at uni, all the staff there then had atleast some related qualification, but the prices for anything other than components were extorsion, even with staff discount (that varied by product)
I'll miss the place when its gone, but its been fighting obsolecence since I worked there (2000ish) and quite frankly cash means nowt if your bottom line is all red.
.. yeah, they will price match, last thing I bought from them was TP Link Homeplug WiFi extender, got a price from PC World, but bought in Maplin, 'cos the salesguy checked the specs for me, and was willing to price match, and the 'assistants' at PC World don't know one end of their elbow from the other.
I had the usual crap advice from the sales boy at Currys PcWorld at the weekend as it happens, I asked which of the TVs they sell will record to a USB device, his answer 'Most of them do that',.. riiiight,... so which? 'Cos none of the infomatics mention it at all,....
"Dixons weathered the credit insurance storm that started in 2008, and was supported by suppliers"
They only just scraped through on this, only the fact Comet when bust before they did that saved them (That is direct from the horse's mouth)... Also, I'll let you into a little Dixon Carphone secret, it was suppliers who saved them, but not who your proposing (Look West to HP, not East to Samsung).
I have memories of pleading with my mother to drive me all the way to Westcliff-on-sea just to go and stand in their one-and-only shop and buy bits for my latest project (so much easier than buying a postal order and waiting 7-10 days....). I still have a 4 digit customer code that baffles them if every I pop in to a modern store. Anyone else remember the dodgy ELO-style posters and catalogue covers in the late 80's? And who remember the tiny green catalogue with Condorde on it at a time when "Maplin Sands" was the answer to Heathrow's expansion problems in the 1970's?
But yes, it's probably time for them to call it a day, or sort out their stupid prices - 48% gross margin on tat from China? Unsustainable.
It's obvious that online is the future of anything that can retail online, and physical retailers that don't adapt face oblivion. The problem is that one online retailer has outgrown all others and will eventually have a near-monopoly. Something must be done! Either that retailer will have to be broken up, or other retailers must rise to the challenge.
The problem is that consumers want simplicity - they don't like registering multiple accounts and searching multiple stores. Either we need a single online shopping account that can search items and place orders with many retailers (OK, someone has a monopoly there already), or retailers of non-overlapping products need to merge their online shopping experience.
For the latter, it would make sense for specialists like Maplins to merge their online store with a generalist, like Argos, under a new brand. For this to really succeed would mean lots of smaller retailers across many sectors co-operating so their product range can compete with the non-indigenous arboreal behemoth. Is this ever likely to happen? The longer it takes, the more entrenched the monopoly becomes.
For the latter, it would make sense for specialists like Maplins to merge their online store with a generalist, like Argos, under a new brand.
Maybe, but Argos were bought by Sainsburys a year or two back, and the merging is moving away from Argos + specialist goods to grocery retailer + Argos. Sainsbury's hope to add the range of Argos to all of their stores, whilst shutting down as many as possible of the Argos locations. its a huge gamble, I'd be surprised if they can make it work. Argos were always pretty good at keeping control of stock, Sainsbury have been infamous for their problems in that area. And, just like Maplin's current owners, I suspect Sainsbury think that a high street presence justifies a 100% premium to on-line prices.
"Sainsbury's hope to add the range of Argos to all of their stores, whilst shutting down as many as possible of the Argos locations. its a huge gamble"
Indeed, I went to my local Sainsburys recently, and they have partitioned off a section that's going to become an Argos outlet. Now, I don't want to classist here, but the local Argos is at a different postcode, for sound reasons, it's near to where their main demographic live. I can't see those customers frequenting Sainsburys and swerving by the Argos outlet. Maybe those customers will opt for deliveries instead, but then anyone can opt for delivery, so why move the location of the store in the first place. I'm not going to spend more at Argos because it's in Sainsburys, instead of at a lower rent shopping centre.
I dunno - do you think Sainsburys is still upper class? Surely that's Ocado and Waitrose these days.
I shop at Sainsburys, because they're free and easy with the money off. So far this year I've gained £180 in my Nectar account (I cleared it out on the last Christmas shop) and they've been sending me £9 and £12 off vouchers every week without fail for two months now. Also I quite like their self-scanning app.
I also shop in Argos, because cheap and easy and very little human contact so nobody's trying to sell you warranties or upsell to the next model. Yes Tesco with your store-in-store PC World, I'm looking at you.
I'd say there's very little to choose between their demographic.
"Sainsbury's hope to add the range of Argos to all of their stores, whilst shutting down as many as possible of the Argos locations. its a huge gamble"
They experimented with having an Argos pickup in Homebase, then shut them down again within a year. Not sure what that was about - they didn't close the multiple local Argos branches so unlikely to save any money.
Went in for an iThingy charging lead one Saturday morning, looked at the price, and thought that can't be right, followed by, f#ck that. On walking out of the empty store empty handed, I was offered obligatory help. After failing to convince me a tenner is worth every penny, it turns out that the lead is included free with a cheap(ish) portable charger that I didnt need. £4.99 instead of £9.99, albeit with the guilt of contributing NiCd to landfill. The cables must cost pennies to make (excluding those lovely gold sheilded optic fibres), so why the ridiculous pricing? Anyway I'm sorry Mr Maplin... Oh and you too Tom and Barbera.
They don't have everything. They have a lot of tat, and most is overpriced.
Amazon delivers very quickly. Farnell has much, much (several orders of magnitude) more stuff if you need electronic components.
Maplin staff seldom know anything really. Even if usually nice.
Their time seems to be over. Clas Ohlson has a more relevant selection for home DIY:ers, and is what Maplin should have morphed into. I.e get the overpriced toys out, and the real useful stuff in instead.
Can anyone point out the value add of PE selling to another PE outfit?
Secondary buyouts (and tertiary buyouts etc) aren't that uncommon. In this case Maplin have had at least four PE owners. Some got their money back (most notably Graphite PE and management buyout investors), whereas it looks like the people who next bought it (Montagu) will have taken a big hit of around £150m. Each time, the old buyer is selling something that they think they've either maximised the value of, or have admitted failure in turning the business around. The new buyer is not always, but usually the "greater fool", who believes that they can see some hidden value where the current owner cannot. Sometimes that's misplaced confidence in their ability to run the business, sometimes they are just hoping to sit things out for another year or two and offload the business at a higher price to some yet-greater-fool.
In real value terms, there's rarely any - the first PE owner will have done the usual acts of pillaging the balance sheet, loading up on debt, asset sales and sackings. Sometimes there's the hope that the business can be expanded out of its problems (hence the fungus-like growth of Maplin stores in recent years), although that's another triumph of hope over experience, and invariably involves lots of debt rather than capital investment. In that situation, the expansion is rarely profitable, but is used as "growth potential" by pretending that the new stores will have the same performance as the original core stores, which may have been profitable, The new PE owner is greedy, and can't see beyond the basic illusion, and buys the lot, hoping to make a five fold profit by an IPO or trade sale, despite the clear logical flaws in the business plan. When selling to a PE house, its always a case of "selling the growth story".
But never forget that although it is called "private equity", it is rarely the personal money of the people making the decisions - quite often its an internal investment operation of a big, listed finance house. Describing it as private equity they hope to avoid all scrutiny (some of you may have seen the ongoing revelations about RBS's "recovery" unit, GRG, that operated as what can only be described as pirate equity business). And if you're playing with somebody else's money, then any risk is tolerable.
All goes well with minimal losses until the music stops, and the last owner finds out that there's no chair (which looks to be the case with Maplin), where "specialist turnround experts" Rutland Group are about to have to take an £85m cold shower. Not looking like a good Christmas for the staff, since without credit insurance nobody sensible will provide stock for Christmas - absent a miracle, I can see shutters coming down in the next few days.
"Reg readers are fond of "Maplins" as one of the few remaining outlets that allows electronics hobbyists to browse legacy components, cables, semiconducters, graphics cards and motherboards while scouting out the latest drones, 3D printers and more."
Judging by the comments, it would appear not......
The problem is "being fond of" doesn't translate into spending loads of money on stuff you don't really need. A toy store for 40+ year old kids (like myself) with overpriced low quality toys can only appeal so much.
If at least Maplin had some stuff that you actually need. (Not, perhaps want.)
At least Homebase has turned away from selling pillows to things that real DIYers actually NEED (as in need RIGHT NOW).
I currently work at Maplin Electronics. I really don't believe Maplin will last much longer. They've stopped all hiring of staff, stopped all overtime, cancelled the works Christmas party, and lots of management in my division are leaving.
They've been forcing unrealistic targets on stores for a few months now. Stores have been running on minimum staff, with Christmas coming up it's going to kill us.
It's a shame really, I've been shopping (for components mainly) at Maplin since I was a kid. Our store, is in my opinion one of the more knowledgeable stores I've been in. Met some great people, staff and customers alike.
I think the problem could have been prevented by just lowering the prices. Why relay price match? To bring customers in you need a decent price. You can not expect a customer looking at different prices to shop in the place that is more expensive.
... 'cancelled the works Christmas party' that is a sign,... I used to work for ntl: and I distinctly remember the memo when our Xmas bash was cancelled, and the financial justification for doing so. Like the sum of money not spent staved off their near bankruptcy,.... if Maplin are penny pinching to that degree, they are on their uppers too.
Very sorry to hear of your potential shit Christmas, mosfetdave.
Hope you find something else if it all goes wrong - I'd recommend tapping up your local O2 store and see if there's any Guru jobs going. In my experience there's a lot of the same customer service skills on offer, tech knowledge etc. You don't even get targetted on sales.
It's very sad.
Doesn't management realise they need to reinvent the business?
What they have to do is to look at any successful alternative.
How many tatty toys do they think they'll be able to sell? Get the toys out first of all. Toys R Us already exists.
They probably have to go with just a few ideas and be the dogs bollocks in those areas. Just like some stores used to be the best for HiFi, and later for home computing (pre PC). Dedication and being the best at something counts for a lot.
I worked at Maplin for a couple of years whilst at uni - Saturdays and Sundays, back when Sunday trading was quite unusual in many cities. I think we were one of the only places to open, leading to a day of standing around playing loud music messing around with toys and gadgets - and occasionally doing a massive refund on DJ equipment that someone had bought the day before, used for a party and returned.
Anyway, back in 1998/1999 it was very much hobbyist. You'd get the old geezers in with their hand-written shopping list, two sides of A4 perhaps with rows and rows of components that barely break £10 at the till. "Can I have a 470 ohm 10W resistor please?". You scurry off to the racks, knowing exactly where they are, bring back 5p worth of component and put it in a bag. "Thanks. Can I have a 10 micro-farad electrolytic 63 volt capacitor please?" You scurry off, and off, and off for the next hour - but the customers were happy.
We'd make cables upstairs, nothing amazing just stuff like SCART to RCA, or DIN leads. We'd even take in computers to fix up - sometimes not even needing any parts to mend - as we were all about the customer service. It did depend on how pleasant the customer was though as that was totally off the record.
Back then it didn't seem to be all about profit. We had targets, but they were easily met even without selling some night vision or a Garmin GPS thingie. We were given a harder time by the boss if customers left grumpy, than if they hadn't spend hundreds of pounds.
I got a transfer to a different store when I left uni, as a full-time member of staff. I think the annual salary at 40 hours a week was £7500 or something in 2000. I never turned up, I went to work in a call centre instead for 60% more money. From then every time I went in there were less components and "things" and more plastic tat. Only last month I went in for a microswitch to build a little kit.... special order only. When I was there, a stock check would take 12 hours of 10-12 people, mostly counting components. I reckon two people could do it in a morning now, they stock almost nothing behind the counter.
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