Maplin Electronics in administration

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Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by 1024MAK » Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:00 pm

Maplin Electronics is now in administration.

Story on The Register

Maplin are still trading as normal, as the administrators are trying to sell it as a going concern.

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Re: Maplin Electronicss in administration

Post by crj » Wed Feb 28, 2018 7:18 pm

If you've got any gift cards you've not spent, or things you've been intending to return for refund, I'd get your skates on, though.

(Better make them ice skates...)

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Re: Maplin Electronicss in administration

Post by vanekp » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:17 pm

:lol:

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Coeus » Wed Feb 28, 2018 8:55 pm

So how does Rutland come to be a secured creditor? I though, as the owners, that means they would own the shares which would definitely not be secured.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by paulb » Thu Mar 01, 2018 12:17 am

I'm pretty sure that the remark in the article about Maplin not selling components isn't correct, although a cursory examination of their Web site would probably prove me wrong. Still, I got the impression that they were pushing IoT and "smart home" stuff pretty seriously, which isn't commercially stupid even if it might be generally stupid given the massive vulnerability surface these things have. Also, given the sales volume, the profit/loss magnitudes aren't that huge: people may whine about them being more expensive than random Internet retailers or "China" but those people aren't buying stuff on the high street anyway (and they'd probably buy stuff at Maplin if desperate, anyway).

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Diminished » Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:42 am

I feel there's an irony in this.

Growing up, Maplin used to be my number one choice for purchasing hobby electronic components through mail order. If you were impatient or desperate, you could go to Tandy/Radio Shack/(Archer/Realistic ... how many brands did they need, anyway?) on the high street, but the variety and pricing wasn't really competitive with the mail-order folks. (I also remember BI-PAK and Greenweld, but that's by-the-by).

Of course, Tandy disappeared, and Maplin were all too eager to fill the retail void left behind. Many (myself included) would argue that this was at the expense of long-standing, "serious" mail-order customers who had made the company what it was in the first place. Certainly, over the past decade, the variety of components available from Maplin has dwindled, and in recent times they've basically become exactly what Tandy were in the 80s -- a retail-focussed setup aimed squarely at the mass market.

Except we all know that that's no longer where the money is -- mail-order is king now. They wanted to be Tandy, and they died just like Tandy.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Boydie » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:26 am

My local store still stocked components, and was handy for just a few resistors/caps in a hurry. Trouble was, they no longer had an in-store catalogue and the website got progressively harder to use.

Plus you had to find an assistant over 40 (preferably 50) if you wanted them to have a chance of finding what you wanted.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Diminished » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:47 am

I actually have an anecdote dating from about fifteen years ago involving me, the Maplin website, a nihilistic afternoon and an SQL injection vulnerability.

To their great credit, they were very understanding when I (belatedly) got in touch with them about it, but I learned a big lesson that week. :lol:

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by jonb » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:00 am

My local Maplin does sell a limited range of components and has saved me in a pinch at least twice.

However, the store is also full of cheaply made but overpriced crap, that you can buy from eBay for a fraction of their prices. I've long felt that Maplin lost their way by excluding the electronic hobbyist. There is now very little in the store that I would be interested in, and the staff seem very keen to bother you the moment you step in the door. Maybe that is because the store is empty and they are lonely!

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by 1024MAK » Thu Mar 01, 2018 2:11 pm

I bought loads of stuff from Maplin before they got bought out the first time. At first, by mail order or by phone. Then by their dial-up modem link service. That was fun. Then with their first internet site.

Then they opened a shop in the nearest city to me. So I could go and see what the non-component items looked like.

Around five years later, they had three stores in the nearest city to me.

Then they started to become less useful. Instead being more of a box shifting company.

But when buying plastic or one of the limited range of metal cases that were sold in store, I found that much easier than ordering online and playing guess if it will fit, measure with a ruler, then compare dimensions. Then go for a final guesstimate and order...

Same with buying some types of switches or buttons.

Now, their website is rather more difficult to use. The search function is poor. The prices in store for components and parts are not attractive.

But some items are still priced okay (some tools for example, at least, when I last bought a tool a while ago).

Not been to a Maplin store this year, but did buy some plastic cases in December last year.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by jonb » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:07 pm

I have bought quite a few tools from them over the years. In particular a UNI-T multimeter for around £60. I figured it was about time I had a decent one. Then I saw a review on EEVBlog and wasn't very happy at all.

On the other hand, it has served me reasonably well, and I don't use it for high voltage measurements, so I should be OK. But what galls me a little is I could have had the same functionality with a (more expensive but not too much more) quality alternative.

Maybe not Maplin's fault, I guess. I'm pretty sure I shopped around and they were not the cheapest, but at least I could get my hands on the thing immediately.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by crj » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:27 pm

It's interesting that I've been seeing threads about this in several different places I frequent.

As I've said elsewhere, I think Maplin's latest (since 2014) owners misjudged things drastically. They pivoted away from being a hobbyist/semi-pro electronics chain just as the maker revolution was starting, turning the shops into spartan Apple Store wannabes selling dash cams and drones.

They should take a long, hard look at successful online retailers like Adafruit. Indeed, they'd probably be better off if they discontinued their entire catalogue and replaced it with Adafruit's one!

It also occurred to me that if B&Q will cut timber for free, why shouldn't Maplin cut stripboard for free? If Staples can offer printing, finishing and photocopying, why shouldn't Maplin offer reflow?

Above all, more people than ever before are interested in electronics and 3D printing. They should be on the one hand nurturing that and on the other capitalising on it.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Coeus » Thu Mar 01, 2018 7:57 pm

1024MAK wrote:Not been to a Maplin store this year, but did buy some plastic cases in December last year.
My local shop was just the ticket when I learned on here from Hoglet that a capacitor on one of the clock pins would get the R65C02 to work in my BBC B and again when Chris Morley e-mailed to say that an RC network would make the OS RAM module work with the R65C02. So they definitely do components in at least some of the stores but that doesn't seem to include ICs. They're hardly likely to be able to pay for a town-centre shop on that kind of custom. though.

On the comments about the hobby market it is natural, I think, for us each to view the world as being full of people like ourselves. I suspect though, even with the recent interest from Arduino, Pi, Microbit etc., the hobbyist market remains "long tail" and therefore not suitable for a chain of high street stores.

So it would not be surprising for their management to have concluded that there was more money to be made in selling pre-build products but I am not sure why they would have viewed that market as not being already saturated, i.e. why they thought they had a niche. Could it be they equated "hobbyist" with "technology lover" and assumed that hobbyists visiting the shops would be tempted to buy the other stuff to a greater extent than they actually did?

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by crj » Thu Mar 01, 2018 8:53 pm

Coeus wrote:On the comments about the hobby market it is natural, I think, for us each to view the world as being full of people like ourselves. I suspect though, even with the recent interest from Arduino, Pi, Microbit etc., the hobbyist market remains "long tail" and therefore not suitable for a chain of high street stores.
They're not household names, and you won't find one of each on every high street, but there are lots of chains for interests like knitting, boardgaming, RPGs, watercolours, fishing, model railways, cake decorating, brass instruments, etc. Big cities will also have specialist shops for maps, umbrellas, Bridge...

There's good money to be made out of catering well to a niche interest. Provided you don't do something stupid like expand to 200 stores. (-8

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Coeus » Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:07 pm

crj wrote:They're not household names, and you won't find one of each on every high street, but there are lots of chains for interests like knitting, boardgaming, RPGs, watercolours, fishing, model railways, cake decorating, brass instruments, etc. Big cities will also have specialist shops for maps, umbrellas, Bridge...

There's good money to be made out of catering well to a niche interest. Provided you don't do something stupid like expand to 200 stores. (-8
Indeed I nearly said "a chain of stores" and then inserted "high street" as I remembered some shops that catered to hobbyists. These have typically been "edge of town" places or spare shops in a row that would otherwise cater for a residential estate or ex corner shops. They've also tended to have a minimum of staff. Some towns seem to have a specific district that has many of these shops.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by paulb » Thu Mar 01, 2018 10:33 pm

crj wrote:As I've said elsewhere, I think Maplin's latest (since 2014) owners misjudged things drastically. They pivoted away from being a hobbyist/semi-pro electronics chain just as the maker revolution was starting, turning the shops into spartan Apple Store wannabes selling dash cams and drones.
But there is money to be made in dashcams and drones, at least for now. However, it is a mistake to alienate substantial portions of your existing customer base when targeting those new markets, because while needing to work harder to get those new customers to associate you in their minds with all the gadgets they want to buy, you lose all the revenue from people who already had you in mind when buying their favourite stuff.

Something similar happened with Clas Ohlson, whose stores in Scandinavia also used to cater for specialists rather more than they do now both here and in places like the UK into which they've expanded. That has left a gap for other players to exploit, which they seem to be able to do rather well.
crj wrote:They should take a long, hard look at successful online retailers like Adafruit. Indeed, they'd probably be better off if they discontinued their entire catalogue and replaced it with Adafruit's one!
Maplin does sell a range of Arduino, Raspberry Pi, other single-board computers, various educational computer things, plus those plastic boxes mentioned earlier. In principle, they are on board with the maker thing. Interestingly, Maplin seems to have own-brand accessories for things like Arduino, but I don't know how competitive they are.

Finding this board at the regional retailer referenced above was a bit of a surprise, because just importing Adafruit and Sparkfun stuff is pretty convenient and they could have left it at that. But if such a retailer can do their own stuff for two small national markets and sell it at a competitive price, Maplin could probably manage to do so in the UK, too.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Pablos544 » Thu Mar 01, 2018 11:23 pm

It's a bit of a shame actually because I can't think of a lot of stuff I've got in my pad that didn't come from Maplin. :? They're just down the road from where I live, funnily enough so was the BBC Micro fella who got me my current Beev just opposite Streatham Common

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by crj » Fri Mar 02, 2018 12:07 am

paulb wrote:But there is money to be made in dashcams and drones, at least for now.
Apparently not. (-8

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Commie_User » Sun Mar 04, 2018 11:31 am

I used to work there and even under Tony Blair, Maplin had sown the seeds of its ruin. They weren't so bad to work for but they had the idea to expand and compete with more regular gizmo shops, so they lost their identity and stocked up with toys and kept prices high on what people went in for. It was already a plate spinning act a decade ago. I haven't been in for years but I think I can see what's happened.

Year by year our components would shrink and hobbyists stayed away. And half the time by the end of my tenure, customers would tut and take longer with the assistant to find alternate sequences of components to more or less do the job. Then those dried up. At the same time, we were increasingly pushed to sell what was on promo, against the stock dedicated customers actually wanted. So by then, I don't think it would have done much good to hire technical wizards because it was then more a question of knowing general stuff. I only knew general stuff and bought a lot of their stock, so could advise customers on things like DVD recorders, as I had the first one of those in our staff. So at that point we got as specialist as COMET or Currys, so no wonder more people could research and order more online. By the time I left, I don't think our stuff had much of a unique reputation for quality, so when our spools of roughly £3 bell wire were listed for £25, we had the rumblings of an avalanche effect. (When our stock control system was in DOS, I could see huge markups as nearly the rule.)


All the same, it's a great pity they might close. If you want boxes or connectors or leads, or to put a PC together and enjoy some after-sales service or maintenance, it's probably still been somewhere you can go.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Andy1979 » Mon Mar 05, 2018 8:44 am

I used to work there too while studying for my A-Levels, 1996-98.

I'd discovered the place a few years before, and it was a revelation because I could by components instantly instead of having to wait ages for an RS delivery, and the prices weren't too bad. It was slightly out of the way - more of a destination store, the kind of place mainstream retailers sent you to when your needs were more specialist.

When I started the store was very component-centric, with a massive store room, and a huge wall of the more expensive components behind the counter. My job interview consisted mostly of me being quizzed on what various components were and how to distinguish them. Knowledge was king. The range of kits for hobbyists was massive, and I built quite a few of them over the years. Think there was still a hobbyist magazine, and at the top end, kits included a Nicam stereo decoder and a valve amp. The catalogue was worth the price for the technical data within it alone.

There was a small range of consumer electronics, but the focus was more around tools like oscilloscopes and walkie talkies. At lot of it was own brand. Still have one of their 'White gold' multimeters, which must be over 20yrs old now, and only just starting to think about replacing it.

After about a year, they refurbed the store and put most of the stock out on the shop floor. There was a bigger focus on AV and DJ equipment, and a range of remote control toys at Christmas.

You got an interesting mix of customers. The most profitable sales were probably where you were helping someone solve a problem that they wanted to take on themselves, but didn't have the knowledge. e.g. fitting an extra telephone extension, finding the right cable to connect two obscure bits of equipment, or networking their computers. They were willing to pay more to speak to someone about what to do, and I received a few tips in my time for such advice. The problem was that you could spend half an hour helping someone find a suitable transistor replacement, only to find that they were 22p each, but that built loyalty and a lot of the customers were regulars.

I agree with the comment above that in recent years the store has morphed into Tandy (who we used to ridicule for their tiny, overpriced range of components). I was in Glasgow airport a few years ago and they had a Maplin in the terminal building, which struck me as very odd. I suspect that the private equity owners built a "5 year exit strategy" designed around drones and IoT gadgets, which hasn't paid off.

It's hard to compete with eBay and Amazon. I paid £5.99 for my ESP8266 development board, and under £40 for my Arduino kit which came with every sensor and cable imaginable. That said, if someone can make money shipping individual items from China for those prices, then you'd think that buying in bulk would leave enough margin.

I'd be really sad to see it disappear completely, but I guess that the Maplin I knew probably died quite a while ago. It would be great if someone takes on the brand and some of the smaller stores and takes it back to its roots, focussing on 'makers' and have-a-go fixers. Agree that it would be brilliant to have Adafruit's range on the high street, along with others. Maybe even a 3D printing service?

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by vanpeebles » Mon Mar 05, 2018 9:09 am

I guess the internets has done for a lot, but Maplin was a shadow of it's former self. I can remember in the mid 80s, we had an Amstrad TV, which was complete crap, and constantly breaking down. My Dad was constantly battling to keep it running.

We used to get our parts from a large old skool electronics shop in Newcastle City Center, I can't even remember where or the name of it! You had to make a big trip of it, stand in a long hushed queue, each person would approach the counter with a bit of paper, while at the front of the counter was an old skool Dickensian type character, addressed as Sir, and he would look through a HUGE tome of parts.

They just don't make brown coat technicians like that anymore.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Commie_User » Mon Mar 05, 2018 1:56 pm

Andy1979 wrote:The problem was that you could spend half an hour helping someone find a suitable transistor replacement, only to find that they were 22p each, but that built loyalty and a lot of the customers were regulars.
By the time I was there, I was often told not to spend more than a few minutes with a customer unless they were really spending. (The one true electronics whizz was mostly left alone though - he was as valuable to us for techie needs as the customers.) It was pressure from above as store managers well understood that if I was able to put people in the picture about video capture cards or little mixers, we'd get the repeat custom on all kinds of stuff. Sometimes people would buy, sometimes not but I also got a good handle on my skills at catering to budgets and needs. Often we'd get returns because people were sold stuff they found they didn't need. (And a rise in returns for things that were just plain shoddy.)

But overall, maybe the head office people saw something we didn't. Perhaps the company would have died earlier had they stuck to components and so bet on toys and stuff as loss leaders. The higher-ups bullied the store managers on their best days but I surely don't know the full picture.


We had some really nice stuff at one time. Curios like VCR data backup systems, recording studio test CDs presented by Alan Parsons, Macrovision defeaters and little video conditioners. I enjoyed shopping on the staff discount. In fact, Maplin were hauled into court for those video copiers and we did see a few sold to the same people. I bought one but it saw little backup use anyway once capture devices got good and pre-recorded media became cheap. (PC devices don't use Macrovision to make the picture flickery when you copy.)

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by crj » Mon Mar 05, 2018 5:27 pm

That kind of thinking, focusing on getting people out the door as quickly as possible if they're not spending anything, is very short-sighted.

In a lot of specialisms - I'm particularly familiar with books, boardgames, pre-recorded music, hi-fi - the trick is to draw people in. Make the place welcoming; make it comfortable; make it a treasure trove they want to browse; make it clear that something exciting is happening here, that there's a whole new world waiting to be discovered if they make this their hobby.

Someone might come in and stay for an hour spending nothing. But if you do it right they'll go away and read some websites and come back a few weeks later wanting to look at some specific stuff before buying it. Run a few special events which are cheap and have cookies. If you become the place enthusiasts go to meet their friends, friends will show one another cool stuff, and you can make another sale.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by 1024MAK » Mon Mar 05, 2018 6:53 pm

The trouble is, too many businesses are run by simply looking at figures... with some parts of the management having lost touch with the customer and what he/she wants.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by richardtoohey » Tue Mar 06, 2018 8:20 am

It's a bit sad to see an old name go to the wall.

Something similar in NZ; the Australian chain Dick Smiths:

http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news ... d=11674299
http://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/news ... d=11725010

When we first moved to NZ, Dick Smiths still had a bit of an electronics area where you could buy components, but that dwindled and disappeared. Then it was all consumer electronics, gadgets, and so on. A lot of other people selling those.

And don't know if Jaycar (another Australian brand) is heading the same way. A few years ago - Arduino, lots and lots and lots of electronic components. Went in there around Christmas - cheap, rubbish consumer electronics, drones, etc. Was looking for an electronic clock - picked one up and the plastic buttons fell off. Utter rubbish.

And Toys R Us going under as well, around the same time as Maplins. :( Just thinking of Woking, where I used to live - it's got a Maplins and a Toys R Us; guess some folk will be looking for new jobs in retail. Good luck to them.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by crj » Wed Mar 07, 2018 10:12 pm

Here's a look at what happened to Maplin from a very different angle. It seems they may have had problems with tangled finances as well as the ones visible to us as geeks.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Commie_User » Thu Mar 08, 2018 1:10 am

They were drawn in to swim with the sharks, by the looks.

And the over-reliance on the shops is right enough. The website was pants when I had a go, with stock hard to navigate (when it was actually in stock in the depot) and the bits never even turned up to my house. I never bothered chasing it up because the pocket money I spent just wasn't worth trying to swim through treacle. I knew how disconnected the system was getting.

I always preferred special ordering straight to the shop through the store system itself. Discontinued stuff was good to transfer from branches and there was much great stuff discounted to much more palatable prices.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by Diminished » Thu Mar 08, 2018 6:56 am

crj wrote:Here's a look at what happened to Maplin from a very different angle. It seems they may have had problems with tangled finances as well as the ones visible to us as geeks.
Its sole owner is MEL Bidco. MEL Bidco is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MEL Midco, which in turn is a wholly-owned subsidiary of MEL Topco.
This wouldn't be out of place as a joke in a Matt Groening cartoon. It almost feels like an Easter egg intended for the wry amusement of whoever had to sort out the mess at the end.

It's pretty painful to read these analyses that accuse the company of failing to cope with the shift to online. Maplin had a dial-up modem ordering service back in the late 80s, when such things were absolutely unheard-of. They practically pioneered online shopping; with the geekspertise present in that company they should have been streets ahead of everyone else in that regard.

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by 1024MAK » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:46 am

Diminished wrote:It's pretty painful to read these analyses that accuse the company of failing to cope with the shift to online. Maplin had a dial-up modem ordering service back in the late 80s, when such things were absolutely unheard-of. They practically pioneered online shopping; with the geekspertise present in that company they should have been streets ahead of everyone else in that regard.
But the really sad thing is, that modem dial up ordering system was far quicker than the current "revamped" pile of garbage sad excuse for a web site :(

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Re: Maplin Electronics in administration

Post by 1024MAK » Thu Mar 08, 2018 7:53 am

crj wrote:Here's a look at what happened to Maplin from a very different angle. It seems they may have had problems with tangled finances as well as the ones visible to us as geeks.
All that nonsense with layers of companies is for only two reasons: reduce the tax payable and hold debt.
Our laws on such matters in this country are pathetic.

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