Maplin Electronics

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Maplin Electronics
Private, Limited
Industry Retail
Founded 22 June 1976[1]
Founder Roger Allen,
Sandra Allen,
Doug Simmons
Headquarters Manvers, Rotherham, South Yorkshire, UK
Number of locations
218 stores
Area served
United Kingdom,
Key people
Oliver Meakin (CEO)
Products Electronics
Owner Rutland Partners
Number of employees
Over 2,000
Maplin store in Gloucester Road, Bristol
Maplin store in Stoke on Trent using the previous logo

Maplin Electronics is a retailer of electronic goods in the UK and Ireland.

As of January 2016, there are 218 Maplin Electronics stores.[2] The company operates an extensive online, telephone, and mail-order sales service.


Former Maplin Electronics logo.


Maplin Electronic Supplies was established in 1972 as a small mail order business by Roger and Sandra Allen and Doug Simmons. The company originally started in a bedroom at the Allens' home in Rayleigh, Essex, after the two electronics enthusiasts were disappointed by the complexity and poor availability of existing electronic component suppliers.

The trio placed a small advertisement in an electronics magazine after printing the company's first 28-page catalogue, which would be offered free to callers. Despite a slow start and dwindling profit in the first year, the company began to create a reputation for offering first grade electronic components that are delivered exactly as shown in the catalogue by first class post.

First store[edit]

The first store opened in Westcliff-on-Sea; the mail order department business moved into the spare rooms above the shop. Sales received a large boost when Maplin was invited to take prime advertising space in IPC Electronics magazines after receiving a large number of complaints against some of their existing advertisers.

A second store opened in Hammersmith by the end of the year. The mail order side of the business had outgrown the space available above the Westcliff-on-Sea store and a large ex-dairy building a few miles away in Hadleigh was purchased and was soon established as Maplin's first warehouse.

Maplin had already started designing electronic kits for hobbyists and musicians, with several major synthesiser and organ projects being published in the first magazine, Electronics & Music Maker, and subsequently made available as kits. Shortly after the second store opened, the technical team and management launched Electronics - the Maplin Magazine, which was initially published every quarter, then later as more projects were designed the publication was issued monthly.

The kits were a perfect vehicle to sell Maplin's components and the articles in Electronics published full circuit diagrams, parts lists and technical articles with full instructions for building and setting up the projects. All this happened in the early 1980s, and the sudden boom in home computer ownership spawned by manufacturers such as Sinclair, Commodore International and Atari created opportunities for Maplin to create home build project kits to plug into these computers such as speech synthesisers, memory expansion cards, extension keyboards, cables, and connectors.

At the height of production of the home-build kits Maplin's range was vast, with in-house designed power amplifiers, radio kits, a weather station and a full weather satellite receiving and display system and many others, as well as the Heathkit and Velleman ranges of kits. The Maplin catalogue, with its distinctive futuristic space ship and planet themed cover art by Lionel Jeans was crammed with hundreds of application circuits, with each new release being eagerly awaited by the hobbyist community and selling hundreds of thousands of copies each year.


Move to South Yorkshire[edit]

Maplin store in Westgate Retail Park, Wakefield

In 1985 Maplin Professional Supplies was created to serve the expanding business market with a catalogue of products selected specifically for professionals and the business market. In 1989 a new National Distribution Centre was opened at Wombwell, South Yorkshire, and four years later a Far Eastern headquarters was established in Taiwan.

By 1994 Maplin had a turnover of more than UK £29 million a year and it was clear[3] more help was needed to organise the business. Later that year Maplin was acquired by Saltire PLC.[3]

In 1999 Maplin launched its own website and the following year sales from the site hit UK£1m. The Southend-on-Sea headquarters also closed in 2000 and all operations were moved to Wombwell. In 2001 the company changed hands again, this time with a management buyout backed by Graphite Capital.[4]

Far East operations[edit]

Maplin Far East Operations was first established in 1992[5] due to the increase in the purchasing of items from Taiwan followed by Hong Kong in China. To strengthen buying power, the Maplin Electronics set up its first Far Eastern branch office in Taipei, Taiwan.

The office is in charge of product sourcing, purchasing, inspecting, shipping and payment arrangement from Taiwan and is now the Far East Operations Centre.

The Hong Kong Office was established in 1995[5] to handle the sourcing, purchasing and shipping from Hong Kong. As most production in Taiwan and Hong Kong have moved to Mainland China, the company registered a representative office in Shenzhen, China, under the Hong Kong Office in 2004. So far, the 3 offices in the Far East handle more than 500 suppliers and 5,000 buying items for the parent company. The major product categories include:

  1. Cables
  2. Power supplies
  3. Electronics components, kits and tools
  4. Communication equipment
  5. Computers
  6. Toys
  7. Automotive electronics
  8. Consumer electronics

1994 acquisition by Saltire[edit]

In December 1994, the private equity firm Saltire PLC acquired Maplin Electronics from its founders, with the intention of merging its operations with another electronics distribution business in its portfolio, Altai.[6]

2001 acquisition by Graphite Capital[edit]

In June 2001 Graphite Capital led the £41 million management buy-out of Maplin. In 2004 Maplin was sold for £244 million to Montagu Private Equity, generating a multiple of 9.5 times cost and an IRR of over 120 per cent.[7]

2004 acquisition by Montagu[edit]

In 2004 Montagu Private Equity purchased 67% of Maplin from Graphite Capital at a cost of UK£244 million.[8] In 2007 the company began to relocate its headquarters and distribution centre to a new facility at Brookfields Park on the former Manvers Main Colliery, Rotherham, just two miles from the old warehouse in Wombwell. Maplin discontinued the processing of orders outside of the UK and Ireland in January 2010, but is looking to expand abroad in 2015.

Montagu Private Equity are now evaluating their options with Maplin, as the value of their investment has been realised.[9] It was envisaged that when the market conditions are right, Maplin would float on the London Stock Exchange; as yet nothing has been confirmed.[10]

2014 acquisition by Rutland Partners[edit]

On 27 June 2014, Rutland Partners announced they were acquiring Maplin from Montagu for £85 million.[11]

Horizon 2015[edit]

Horizon project[edit]

Chief Executive Officer John Cleland took post of Maplin Electronics on 1 March 2013.[12] Assessing the current state of the business, he concluded that due to the current economic climate resulting in lowering footfall, Maplin Electronics would have to make serious structural changes in order to continue trading in 2015.[10] Following this, he set out plans for the Horizon 2015 project.

The Horizon 2015 project established some medium term goals, such as a complete overhaul of the existing stores, widening the product range, and establishing a clear message to the consumer.

Service guarantees[edit]

Maplin Electronics recently introduced three service guarantees to improve its customer service interface:

  • Price match - This is available for any product which is available online or in store. Maplin will price match online prices but that company must be UK based and have a high street store. Maplin does not price match 'Online Only' stores.
  • 365 day 'No Quibble' - Returns are handled primarily in-stores instead of being sent away
  • Free delivery - No delivery charge when purchasing within the store.

Debt free[edit]

It was announced late 2012, Maplin Electronics was now officially out of debt from their creditor Montague Equity.[10] This was hailed as good news to all of the staff and stake holders of Maplin Electronics, as the recession of 2008 hit the economy hard.

Store expansion[edit]

New store at One Stop shopping centre, Perry Barr, Birmingham, a few days before the scheduled opening

In the company's effort to remain part of the retail industry, it has invested UK £40 million to overhaul its e-commerce platforms on its website and through smart phone apps, and to reach a medium term goal of 300 retail stores throughout the UK and Ireland before expanding abroad in 2015.[13] The company is looking to find vacant store outlets in key cities[14] in which to expand.

In 2013 Maplin Electronics plan to open travel stores in airports and railway stations where it will offer a tailored product selection such as travel adaptors, batteries, and laptop chargers.[15]

Product range[edit]

Maplin Electronics sells a large selection of electrical and electronic equipment such as audio/visual devices, components, computer devices and peripherals, cables, television and satellite equipment, everyday electrical items such as batteries & light bulbs, power adaptors and solar energy panels. The company also sells MP3 players, portable televisions and satellite navigation equipment. The target market ranges from the general consumer to the more technical electronics hobbyist.

In November 2012, Maplin Electronics CEO John Cleland stated, "We want to double the range of products we sell online from 15,000 to 30,000 SKUs (stock keeping unit) in the next three years, in some cases we will work on fulfilling orders by delivering straight from the manufacturer to the customer."[15]

Drop ship vending[edit]

In June 2013, Maplin Electronics introduced drop ship vending, allowing them to offer a far greater range of stock for sale online than available in-store.

For sale[edit]

In March 2014 Montagu Private Equity put Maplin up for sale with an expected return of between £100m and £200m.

In June 2014 Maplin sale was agreed between Montagu Private Equity and Rutland Partners in an £85m deal. Rutland typically focuses on restructuring opportunities, "special situation" investments. £5m of the capital was provided by Beringea from funds provided by Proven and Proven Growth and Income VCTs.[16][17]


  1. ^ "Maplin Electronics Limited". Open Company. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  2. ^ "Help Centre". Maplin. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  3. ^ a b "Addleshaw Goddard Advises Management on £244 Million Sale of Maplin Electronics". Addleshaw Goddard. 2015. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  4. ^ Archived 1 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ a b "Help Centre". Maplin. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  6. ^ "Saltire Turnover, Profit Up". PR Newswire. 16 April 1996. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  7. ^ "Maplin". Graphite Capital. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  8. ^ Montagu Private Equity announces UK£244 million acquisition of Maplin Electronics Archived 14 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  9. ^ Harrington, Ben (3 September 2010). "Maplin Electronics may change hands for £400m". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  10. ^ a b c Internal Memo
  11. ^ "Investment in Maplin Electronics By Rutland Partners". Rutland Partners. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  12. ^ MacDonald, George (24 February 2012). "John Cleland named Maplin chief executive". Retail Week. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  13. ^ Bearne, Suzanne (5 July 2013). "Analysis: Maplin plots store growth as part of renewal strategy". Retail Week. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  14. ^ "Maplin - The Electronics Specialist". Maplin. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  15. ^ a b "Help Centre". Maplin. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  16. ^ "Beringea Invests £5 million in Electronic Specialist Maplin". ProVen. 22 September 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 
  17. ^ "Electronics retailer Maplin sold for £85m". The Daily Telegraph. 27 June 2014. Retrieved 6 September 2015. 

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