Maplin, darling – Published: 12 Aug 2006

maplin

There are two kinds of people in this world: normal people and people who build their own speakers. I write today to the latter grouping.

Maplin have moved into premises on The Strand. London’s The Strand! Is that exciting? Now, is Maplin going up-market or is The Strand going down? Why does it feel wrong? And is it bad to think of Maplin as downmarket?

Back in the day, when Maplin was a mail-order components shop, it seemed pretty cool and a bit specialist. You wrote to them and they sent you a padded envelope with a new belt for your turntable or a pair of tweeters, you got things you couldn’t just buy on the high street.

I suspect the increasingly common sight of high-street Maplin store feels downmarket because they have pretty much moved into all the abandoned Tandy stores.

Tandy was, without doubt, downmarket, and it was quite right that it disappeared. Tandy sold components too, of course, but their main thrust was rubbish plasticky gadgets with LEDs that promised sooo much. Computerised dog collars, electric biscuit holders and handy travel endoscopes (batteries not included).

Sadly, Maplin seem to be piling up the same sort of Tandiesque tat by the door, to fool the passing trade into thinking it’s nothing but remote controlled scissors and digital hair-extensions from here on in.

I think they should open a separate chain called Maplin-lite, and stuff that full of this kind of silliness. I imagine it would do very well in foreign airports and Northern market towns. Maplin Regular could go on selling the tweeters and turntable belts. And it wouldn’t have to hide this sort of stock downstairs anymore, like some embarrassing little backroom full of adult books.

Any thoughts?

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