Farewell Maplin: I’ll miss trying stuff out before I buy it on Amazon

By March 1, 2018Storytelling

The news that Maplin collapsed marks another high-street retailer failing to keep up in a market that is rapidly accelerating. “We believe passionately that Maplin has a place on the high street, and that our trust, credibility, and expertise meets a customer need that is not supported elsewhere.” revealed Graham Harris, Chief Executive of Maplin.

I owned my own electronics store in the early 70’s which I sold long before the internet took off, so I like to pop into Maplin to fiddle with wires when the opportunity arises. On my last visit (to buy a couple of much-needed phono plugs on a Saturday morning) I stood under the pulsating, rotating disco lights staring at the wall display of TV aerials wondering how on earth are they’re still going.

Maplin’s CEO Graham Harris said that we can trust Maplin, they are credible, and they are experts. That, I believe, is actually the three killer blows that sunk it.

Trust: a belief in the reliability of someone or something. When visiting Maplin, this is not a feeling I left with. Back in the 70’s when Maplin launched its electronics mail order business, electronics were built in the US, Japan or England and were engineered to last. Now that’s all different, electronics are not built; they are produced. It is not unusual to buy some electronics only to find it falls apart as you unpack it – so reviews are more important than ever to provide trust. But unfortunately Maplin had a habit of stocking some badly made goods and with very few reviews on its website, it is hard to build trust.

Credibility: the quality of being convincing or believable. On my last visit to Maplin I looked at their home automation offering: the next big thing for the ‘modern electronics shopper’. How did they present this automation revolution set to change the world? On a fold-up table. I’d expect to find this at the local boy scout’s hall, complete with an assistant who knew less about automation than my cat.

Expertise: I’ve met some great Maplin staff who know their way around a circuit board and can offer useful advice to get a project completed. True, I could have googled it, but it’s nice to chat with a fellow appreciator of diodes. However, those experts were diluted by shop floor sales staff trained to shimmy up to you and ask if they can help, only to establish that they can’t.

One wonders what went on in the rest of company; Execs who couldn’t work a smartphone debating the company future; buyers responsible for warehouses stacked to the ceiling with one star rated digital photo frames. But there is one part of this sad story that we can all learn from: what was Maplin’s mission? If it was to connect brilliant ideas as the website claims, then it failed as I saw no evidence of brilliant ideas being connected. If it was as CEO Graham Harris said to be ‘trusted, credible experts’, then it failed there too.

If you have thousands of employees it will take months – years even – for them to adjust, and probably all in vain as it will be too late. The news feeds say that Maplin’s administrators will keep the retailer’s stores open, and will continue to operate the electronics retailer’s website while searching for firms interested in buying parts of the business.

Fold up tables anyone?

If you’re seeking your business mission then let’s talk.