Ritchie on Maplin

Maplin had almost no chance of meeting the expectations of its new owners. The chance
that it could ever pay a 15% return was remote in the extreme. The chance that it was overstressed
in an attempt to make such payments is highly likely. The result is its employees
losing their jobs and a valuable resource for many being lost to the High Street.

But there wasn’t any value,. was there? For consumers valued it at less than the cost of providing it to them.

49 comments on “Ritchie on Maplin

  1. Twitter has been full of people bemoaning the loss of Maplins, typing their Tweets as they switch from tracking their latest delivery from Amazon/eBuyer/somewhere else.

  2. Rarely managed to get what I wanted in Maplin. Prices were stupid for some things, like tools. And when you wanted some components like capacitors or transistors they never had the ones you wanted. The shops were too big for hobbyists and too small for the other stuff they sold. Pointless really.

  3. I can just imagine Ritchie looking around a decent sized Maplins.

    He wouldn’t have the first effing clue what any of it was for. Including the kiddies’ electric cars.

    I’ve got an RS account again – for the first time in over 30 years, because my two local Maplins were quite so shit.

  4. Maplins was mostly a mail order business. It’s problems started when it decided to become a retail one 🙁

  5. Argos fulfils most of the same purpose as Maplin, which is to provide cheap Chinese tat slightly faster than Amazon. Mind you, I’ve thought Argos’s writing was on the wall for a while now.

  6. The Spud is almost wise in hindsight but he could do better. If the directors thought that they would not be able to pay a 15% return, assuming that the Spud has got that right (which is possible but not very probable) then they should probably have folded earlier. Does anyone know whether HMRC had a hand in this?

  7. Damn, I looked at Spud’s blog….how the fyck does he come to the conclusion that asset stripping was going on?

  8. I’ve used Maplin’s quite a lot over the years as it’s in our local high street, but not in any great quantity. If I were still into building electronics kit on a regular basis I would be patronising Mouser, CPC/Farnell or Rapid, but Maplin’s was useful for just the odd component I needed. Sad to see it go but not surprised – the finances never added up.

  9. If Ritchie did electronics, he’d be raging against neoliberals cos an op amp integrator integrates rather than differentiates.

    And imagine his anger when he discovers that capacitors can have leakage current! Or what about the conspiracy that is parasitic coupling or crosstalk! Or that there’s more than one type of transistor and they work differently?

  10. Maplin is where men meet for sex, according to the Daily Mash.

    Presumably Murph sold his stock a while back …

  11. Mr Lud, I visited a Maplins just before Xmas to buy some decorative lights for the other half. There were 5 male attendants and me. I guess I ought to have pulled there. It is like that joke about Uber being a meet-up service for gay Muslims

  12. I’m one of the few people who’s been in to a Maplins regularly over the last couple of decades. I can say that with confidence because there’s never anyone else in there whenever I go in.

    I only use it whenever I need some electronic components or some computer stuff right there and then, and I’m prepared to pay the stupidly expensive prices they charge, rather than wait a day or two for an internet delivery from CPC or Farnell or wherever for half the price.

    As for ToysRUs, good riddance. Finding a staff member there was an impossible undertaking, and the toys were stupidly expensive. The sports section was full of unusable gear. I’ve spent hours looking around those stores trying to find a kid’s present that wasn’t absolute garbage, and often failed.

  13. I suggest, Hector, that you are a vile novelist and pointy-headed geek, without prejudice and subject to contract

  14. Murphy is becoming a parody of himself. People who specialise and make a living doing the things he comments on are dismissed as having no idea or being neoliberal.

  15. Sad to see this happen to Maplin. The first shop was just up the road from where I grew up. I used to enjoy perusing the catalogues. They’d moved the shop over the road by the time I was ready to buy stuff but it was just too expensive. Even the simple audio leads were way over-priced. The last thing I bought there was a Raspberry Pi starter kit which was a reasonable deal at the time. As others have noted, the demise was inevitable.

  16. Becoming a parody, Perry? When did anyone with any knowledge take the Spud seriously? Obviously, that excludes most MPs and Polly Toynbee and the Vice Chancellor of City University

  17. I’m one of the few people who’s been in to a Maplins regularly over the last couple of decades.

    How ridiculously arrogant. Even for sarcasm (which is rather missing given the rest of the post.)

  18. It makes no sense that Maplins outlasted Tandy/Radio Shack. That both should be gone is not a surprise, it’s just the order in which it happened imv.
    Computer fairs are getting rare too – can’t be long before there’s one a month in some regions.
    But Screwfix and Argos still seem to do be doing ok with their business models.

  19. Shops are over-rated: too hot in winter because over-heated, too hot in summer because under-ventilated, and full of stuff I don’t want. Bah humbug.

  20. I’ve been writing and testing some USB keyboard driver code. Thinking it would be a good idea to test the code with something other than the Dells I have at home, and wanting to test with a US layout keyboard, I popped into Maplin before Christmas. You could have scraped me off the floor when I saw the keyboards for £150plus. Yes, that’s not a typo, two week’s dole for a keyboard. More than the price of the PC to plug the damn things in.

  21. Poor Spud. Imagine being the lofty professor wanting to be taken seriously, then being told he’s published comments from “Mike Unstmelz”and “Norma Stitz”.

  22. Noel, there was good old Drew Peacock. Don’t forget him. Not the former Australian politician, though nobody made that joke at the time, not through any need for decorum.

  23. I had a closer relationship with Maplin than most, since I was the technical director for the Internet company that built and maintained their e-commerce website back in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, since they didn’t have the expertise in-house.

    Even back then they were doing a turnover of 2-million a year through the website, which since it was wholly automated (apart from the two techies supporting it as needed), it was a money maker.

    I could never see the point of the catalog (which they were still flogging last year as I recall) and the shops were often quite large and filled with weird and wonderful gadgetry, but customers? not so much.

    Certainly the experience of being in a store on my own with 5-staff was not uncommon.

    I suspect they might have survived if they’d gone internet only and revamped their catalog, but as many have said, there are enough specialist electronics shops doing that from Farnell to RS, so probably time for them to go.

    Shame, but that’s the way capitalism works. If you aren’t able to make a 15% return with all those resources then better to release the capital and allow those nerds to swim free. They were obviously doing no good standing around empty stores all over the country.

  24. I’m only my second foray in a Napkin store, I asked one of these nerds for kit to transfer files from an ubuntu laptop to a Windows ditto.

    He didn’t know what ubuntu was. Not so nerdy …

  25. He took a real pasting from Sarah Mark on that procurement thread and his fair tax mate was equally reamed by Sarah Mark. Great stuff! Even Spud couldn’t respond to her idea of excluding

    having sex outside your first heterosexual marriage

  26. @Adrian

    Drew Peacock was a friend of mine. There are many more friends posting to Spud that he and his acolytes haven’t spotted yet.

  27. I can remember Maplin as the store wouldn’t sell you anything unless provided with your name, address, postcode & fone number. I wonder what Gordon Brown of 10 Downing Street SW1 1A did with all his advertising bumpf?
    And it says something for the depth of knowledge of it’s staff that not once were my customer details queried. The company having gone the whole hog & outsourced its physical shops to India.

  28. What’s the uber gay Muslim joke? I can’t find it on google. For the life of me I can’t think why not.

  29. “People who specialise and make a living doing the things he comments on are dismissed as having no idea or being neoliberal.”

    I have to work with someone who does this. He’s an expert on everything he wants to be an expert on. For any other field of endeavour there is only vicious and cynical dismissal. Until he becomes an expert in one of the things he used to dismiss.

    It’s a common enough trait, just to an obnoxious level in some.

  30. Glad to see the blog returning to life Tim.

    Tho’ I hope it isn’t all going to be about the Fat Turd over here and everything else at Contins.

  31. Overpriced and many times poor (often pitiful) technical quality when compared to the rest of the market at their price point – I’d still be using them for “distress purchases” if their goods hadn’t caused more problems than they solved.

    FFS they could have partnered with Chinese tech crap aggregators applied a bit of sane QA and leveraged their distribution network = but in truth they were too stupid and greedy. Their fixation with expensive retail position no doubt didn’t help their overheads.

  32. @Tomo – Yup, can’t really disagree with any of that. They had a good brand but failed to move with the times as far as the high street stores and their variety was concerned. Now it looks like they are done.

    I’ve got some sympathy for the staff, but pretty much none for the management though.

  33. “Where will the Chavs get their jewelry from?”

    Time to reinvent the Ratner brand?

    OT Why isn’t Spud on strike?

  34. @John Galt

    I always scratched my head at the retail positioning both physically and stock wise. The rents must have been enormous (I was told about a few that simply beggared belief)

    Then again … having seen Rutland Partners involvement with another notionally technical business – they were doomed ….

  35. BiG, it’s something like what does a gay Muslim do to get a date in (big city of your choice)? Call an Uber.

  36. I first used Maplin in 1980 when it was catalogue and mail-order. Spent hours reading and learning from catalogue. Purchased regularly with local Tandy and indie shops as backup for too small orders.

    When they opened local store – yippee – , long after Tandy & indie gone, it was always busy with queues at component counter and knowledgeable staff. Then click and collect introduced – even busier.

    Rot here was apparent when they moved from a single unit shop* to a an adjacent three unit shop – previous occupant was chain who went bust. They adopted failed Tandy model with self-service bagged components, one capacitor at £stupid. Then electronics was increasingly replaced with tat.

    Like SE I opened an account with RS and also CPC.

    Sad Maplin have followed Tandy into failure.

    * Location not prime – a Lidl opened almost opposite – so lower rent and ideal originally, but not when selling overpriced shiny bling tat.

  37. A couple of months ago, I was able to buy a right-angle gold-plated satellite connector from Wilko for less than £2 (believe it or not, online and collect from store). Ironically, they are located opposite from Maplin in Sutton.

    Maplin lost their way about three years ago, and have gone downhill since – my last purchase there were some disco lights for my daughter’s birthday party. I pick up their brochure and nothing interests me – drone after drone.

  38. I used to buy a lot of components from Maplin as RS wouldn’t deal with you if you weren’t a business. The arrival of the catalogue was very exciting. This was thirty-five years ago of course. Their prices were good and they didn’t have minimum orders. Delivery was usually 3-5 days. Having a bricks-and-mortar presence never made any sense to me.

    A copy of Horowitz and Hill, some breadboards and the Maplin catalogue gave me a pretty good grounding in electronics. I had virtually a complete collection of 74-series logic ICs, including the obscure ones (74260, anyone?). My mother had a clearout of the loft a few years ago and binned them, along with about ten thousand quid’s worth of salvaged gear. Words were had. She has form though. She gave my mint-condition LP of Meet the Beatles to McMillan Nurses. That’s going for $4-5000 these days.

  39. A mint-condition LP of Meet the Beatles is almost impossible to understand. I got it as a Christmas present back in 196?,and a few months later, after about 3000 plays, it was hardly mint anymore

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