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Maplin boss looking to extend supply chain

The managing director of online electronics retailer Maplin is looking to grow the business, accepting that it will need to widen its supplier network

It has been 14 months since Maplin returned as a brand online, emerging from a turbulent time that saw the business close stores and retreat from the high street.

Under new management after it was acquired out of administration, the firm is not only looking to get back to delivering tech products for those who need them and hobbyists, but is also keen to develop channel relationships as it widens out its supplier network.

“The administrators just wanted to sell the brand and we saw a lot of value in it,” said Ollie Marshall, managing director of Maplin. “I also looked at the financials, had some insight there, and saw that from a gross margin perspective, it was a very healthy business, with people buying this stuff all the time. The big problem was the cost base, and this is exactly what everyone’s going through right now – it was just out of whack to run 217 stores.”

Maplin was a well-established and well-loved brand with a loyal customer base, and those same customers are still out there for the online business to target.

“There’s sort of two groups that we mainly think about – the tech hobbyists…and the tech essentials, the everyday tech essentials,” said Marshall.

Maplin has so far chosen not to offer components, which a lot of its old customers are calling for, because of the challenges in making that viable online, but that could change as the business progresses.

“We can go a lot deeper than other retailers. For example, we might have five variants of an adapter, different lengths, different brands, whereas if you go into a Currys you’ll find one version of that, which is either its own brand or Currys partnering with some A brand,” he said.

“We are trying to capture the same audience that Maplin always did, but do it online. We want to be the masters of the electronics area”
Ollie Marshall, Maplin

“We are trying to capture the same audience that Maplin always did, but do it online. That really is the sentiment,” he added.

Marshall is also pushing the message that the business is UK-based and it is trying to lean on its heritage of having highly technical staff who can assist customers, not a model being followed by some larger e-tailer competitors.

“When I have conversations with people about Maplin, they say they loved the staff and they could go into a store and say they wanted to connect this thing to that and ask how they would do it. That’s what we want to bring online. We’ve still got work to do there, but a year-and-a-half in and we are still guns blazing,” he said.

“We want to be the masters of the electronics area,” he said, pointing out that other rivals did not have that sort of ambition being more focused on a wider basket of products.

Where the return of Maplin could become even more interesting for the channel is in the attitude Marshall has towards extending its supply base as the business continues to mature.

“We need to be as supplier-friendly as we are customer-friendly. It is being supplier-friendly that is going to enable us to be customer-friendly,” he added. “We try to innovate around that so we see our customers as much as being the consumer as the supplier.”

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