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back to article Cashless Comet to close 41 stores, axe 500 jobs

Collapsed electricals retailer Comet is to shutter 41 stores over the next fortnight, administrator Deloitte has confirmed. So far Dixons Retail and Maplin are among the rivals circling the fallen retailer, although it appears the two are interested in just a handful of stores. As a result the closing down process began at 27 …

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Silver badge
FAIL

Found myself in Comet yesterday

they were next door to the shoe shop the Mrs wanted to go to (!). Busy, but hardly queuing out the door. Had a walk round. Most stuff was still at 10% of the MRP, so still more expensive than a 5 minute google.

Given they're already over-burdened with older models, I can see a lot of stock being left in the stores when the shutters go down. And despite the Dixons/Maplin thing, I suspect very few will ever re-open in any guise. Every retail park near me has at least one empty cathedral-sized unit. And the nearest shopping centre has empty units where JJB, TJ Hughes, Peacocks, Alders, Woolworths, Clinton, Millets, Past Times were, to say nothing of the smaller units. I wonder how it works with business rates ... because looks to me like you're going to have to squeeze more from less.

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Maplins - I hope not, they are too good to fail.

If they can't be used as shops they should be converted to housing.

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pig

Not much of a sale

"A closing down sale was initiated at the weekend across stores due to be shuttered and more aggressive discounts will be applied to the other remaining 195 outlets, the administrator said."

I suspect this means they will, at best, match Amazon prices.

And therin lies the problem. From my experience most of the time my friends or family have gone into a Comet recently is to look at a TV / Wahing Machine / Etc and choose which one they want. Then go home and order it online with a cheaper price, free delivery and no one hassling you for extended waranty or Monster (price) cables.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a sale

It probably doesn't help when you have people the likes of me who'll advise shoppers while doing their own shopping. If I hear one of the shop assistants talking BS about why set A is better than set B, I have a habit of walking over and explaining why that's complete bullshit, and that set c is higher quality than set b but at the same price point of set a.

I have been asked to leave the store on more than one occasion.

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Re: Not much of a sale

When I worked there I use to hate it when people did that sort of thing.

It actually cost our store allot of money because of people spouting on about stuff they don't know about.

You may know what you are on about, but I always found people spouting rubbish costed the company money because they have clue what they are on about.

Customers should stick to there own business and leave others alone unless they know the other customer.

I can count on 1 hand how many times I had people come back and complain about me, because simply put I didn't force people in to something they didn't want and I always got them the best they could get for there budget.

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Maplin, also owned by private equity...

... had to pull an attempted sale of the business owing to the retail climate. To quote the Telegraph:

"The company’s most recent accounts, filed at Companies House, show that in the year to January 1 2011, the business made a loss before tax of £32.7m on sales of £213m, against a loss of £26.1m on sales of £203m in the prior year."

Perhaps their enthuiasm to take on Comet's retail space is their "synergy" with Comet's business model.

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Re: Not much of a sale

So when you recommend the customer buys Monster Cable for £xx, you've got the custmer's best interests in mind? I don't think so.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a sale @mfraz

He never said he recommended the monster cables.

What he said was that customers that thought they knew what they were on about most times did not. That is not to say you don't but a lot of people are that way.

He is probably one of the very rare poeple I have met in these type of shops in the past that actually try to help the customer not just the profits of the business. Note the business should still be making money on any sale so the sales person can get the user the best product for their needs and price. Sales people should not have wages tied to the magins the business is making on a particular product.

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FAIL

Re: Not much of a sale

Yet to see someone in Comet, PC World or Dixons sell something and have a clue what they are talking about and then not try to push extended warrenty's.

I was in Comet on Saturday and watched as a staffer suggested a £110 HDMI cable (discounted from £130) with the cut price TV. I know they re going out of business, but I had to point out that Gold plated ends create input/output impedence problems, HDMI is digital with bit error correction and HDMI was designed to operate over a few metres with a 10/50 metres (couldn't remember which) maximum range. I then asked her if her TV and source have gold connectors and will the TV and source only be a couple of metres apart? I then suggested she could find the right cable on Amazon for ~£3 although £10 was average for shops. Comet man did not look happy.

Saw a similar thing in PC World related to Anti-virus that day and (a few months earlier) when I asked a PC World staffer what the difference between the PC World Exclusive Asus Transformer and the Asus TF301 was he waffled on about it being better (It was slightly more). I got my phone out goggled the serial number and found out the exclusive was the TF101, I showed him the spec sheet and left.

Amusingly that day I managed to sell 4/5 tablets in HMV once someone picked up I knew what I was looking at. I had a queue of people asking me questions.

A good electronics retailer, would have staff who know what they are talking about, offer good value loans, provide support/workshops to show you how to operate your purchase and wouldn't be trying to push expensive cables or bolt on packages. Basically be more like Maplins (although Maplins isn't brilliant).

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a sale @AC 11:26

"It probably doesn't help when you have people the likes of me who'll advise shoppers while doing their own shopping. "

Your own shopping for self-affirmation, by the sounds of it.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not much of a sale @Steve Crox

" ... 10/50 metres (couldn't remember which)"

Maybe you should be more sure of things before trying to big yourself up.

" ... will the TV and source only be a couple of metres apart?"

Whew! Dodged the bullet there, eh?

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Re: Not much of a sale

"Basically be more like Maplins (although Maplins isn't brilliant)."

I haven't encountered knowledgeable staff in Maplins for years.

monkeys and peanuts, etc.

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Boffin

Re: Maplin, also owned by private equity...

I know Maplin very well. They are in fact one of the most profitable retailer I know with gross margins of over 50%. At operational level on revenues of 205m in 2011, they generated a profit before tax of 24m. Both are down on last year but the pain sits in interest payment on loans further up the group structure (some 63m in 2011), hence the significant loss at group level. Much of the interest is however attributed to loans only repayable on exit. The danger for Maplin is a continued further drop in revenue, rising costs and a drop in gross margin. The latter often forms part of banking covenants. the demise of Comet may well help them more than Dixons.

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Thumb Up

Re: Not much of a sale

Never had an issue buying bits in Maplin after leaving PC World or Curry's. There, staff were happy to help once I wanted it and I invariably walked out with what I needed, not what they wanted to sell me.

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Vic
Silver badge

Re: Not much of a sale

> Gold plated ends create input/output impedence problems

Errr - why?

Vic.

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Discounts? What discounts?

"more aggressive discounts will be applied to the other remaining 195 outlets"

I popped in to the local store to see what bargains were to be had at this 'closing down sale'.

I had a look at camcorders and of the few I price checked, they could all be bought cheaper (by £20-30) from Amazon... and that was in their idea of a 'closing down sale'!

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Thumb Down

Re: Discounts? What discounts?

Maybe Comet should've matched Amazon's tax dodges.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Discounts? What discounts?

They should be at least below the online prices as you won't be able to return to the shop when there is a problem.

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Silver badge

Re: Discounts? What discounts?

"Maybe Comet should've matched Amazon's tax dodges."

I'd have been more impressed if they'd simply matched XYZ shop across the road.

There were more than a few online gripes about their "discounted" prices being higher than previous instore standard pricing.

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Discounts???

I went in to see what sort of discounts were being offered, on stuff and found that most of the things were reduced from say £499.99 to £495.99.

It was the same when I worked for Comet, they just nearly always refused to give discount on things.

I wanted to look at 3d tv's to grab myself a bargain, and found that I could still get a Panasonic 3d tv cheaper from the internet with a 5 year warranty than I could get it from Comet with a standard warranty.

Comet as a company only have themselves to blame, and I just feel sorry for the friends of mine that are still working there from when I was working there, but atleast I managed to get out of there.

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WTF?

Maplins

"Maplins - I hope not, they are too good to fail"

You are joking right. That place is a metric shambles, they used to be amazing but do are nothing but a giant shed of last years expensive computer parts and whatever can be sourced cheap from china. I like the fact that they don't stock more than 3 Items, good luck building a stereo amplifier when they only have 3 speaker sockets. I usually have to visit two to get the required 4.

Voice changing megaphones, says it all really. They used to have fun kits for that sort of thing, now you can just buy the plastic tat version of the shelf. Bah.

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Thumb Up

Re: Maplins

I thought Maplins were going downhill when a couple of years ago they were selling a £40 WinCE netbook for £200. Asda were selling a proper Acer Aspire One for £150.

It's alright if you need a bit of emergency RAM, a new soldering iron or the occasional bargain on things like external HDDs, but for the most part it does seem to be a cross between Hawkins Bazaar and a wedding reception disco DJ stockist.

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Re: Maplins

"a wedding reception disco DJ stockist"

Nailed it!

C.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Maplins

Maplin in general are still very over-priced. Went into their store the other day. Their "Special Offer" shelf had PowerLine 500mbps units at £39.99. The identical branded product at Amazon said that £39.99 was in fact the RRP. Incidentally their price was £34.99 with free postage.

Maplin stock a nice large "MSF" clock - they make great presents. Several times I've replenished my stock of them at a clearance price of about £10. A week later the shelves are empty - and then they have identical new stock priced at up to £30. I understand that logic in the perishable goods business - but not for that sort of product.

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Holmes

Re: Maplins

"t's alright if you need a bit of emergency RAM, a new soldering iron or the occasional bargain on things like external HDDs, but for the most part it does seem to be a cross between Hawkins Bazaar and a wedding reception disco DJ stockist"

That is precisely where its strength lies.......

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Unhappy

Wormwood - Comet

Its sad that the only thing people seem to comment on is the lack of discount. The Spiral of failure continues until as Steve Jobs put it he was/is the richest man in the grave yard. All well and good getting things cheaper, but what do Amazon pay their pickers, are they likely to buy new cars or houses. probably not because of the low salaries to 'keep the price down' they cannot afford to. Just means that the bottom of the pile just went up a level to a new bottom of the pile, till like jengo the whole pile falls down. Sometimes it aint worth that £5 saving if you get what I mean, I would rather have a neighbour in a job than the fiver discount in my pocket as at least he will potentially be putting the fiver in my pocket by buying the goods from the employeer I might work for. But I guess that was in times of yore, now its just zombie flesh eaters where ever you look.

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Stop

Re: Wormwood - Comet

yeah well fing is, the Amazon "pickers" get through more stock - they dont get paid for standing around helping puters gawp at the merch. So they can afford to pay em more?

I dunno, point is comet staff - and stores - are not needed anymore.

send order and money electronically - warehouse sneds me my stuff . The middle man is well and truly redundant.

HOORAY!

now all thos unemployed shop assistants are "empowered with choice in the job market" and can go and find jobs that benefit society*. Sounds harsh but its for the best in the long run

*jobs like builder, baker, candlestick maker.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Wormwood - Comet

I try to support my High Street shops. Recently I needed a large-ish quantity of bagged compost and asked my local old-established shop to quote me for the largest bags they could get from their suppliers. After a week's delay the answer was that they could only source the small 10 litre bags they carry on their shelves. That would have totalled 50% more than an online garden supply company's price with 30 litre bags - and that included delivery charges.

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Comet

Comet in Newtownabbey closed about 20 years ago. We got a good deal on a C64 in their closing down sale. They couldn't match the discounts of Lazer electrics next door. Currys opened a few years later and unfortunately put Lazer out of business at the start of the current recession.

Last time I visited a store was the Edinburgh branch. The salesperson was friendly but strangely didn't seem overly interested in selling me the laptop that I needed.

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Anonymous Coward

Discounts...

In a Closing Down scenario there's a balance to be struck. One one hand you want to sell as much stock as possible, one the other you have an obligation to make as much profit as possible to pay your creditors. It seems Comet/Deloitte haven't got that balance right on this occasion.

Whilst I wasn't one of Comet's better customers I am sad to see the demise of another bricks and mortar store. For me they have one advantage and that is being able to deal face-to-face when I have problems with an item, something that's not possible when buying on-line.

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Anonymous Coward

Face to face when I have problems

You *are* joking aren't you ? One of the biggest complaints about Comets "customer service" was any problems and they would tell you to fuck off and contact the manufacturer, it was nothing to do with them. Google for "Comet SOGA" to see countless discussions from customers who had this treatment, and had to remind Comet about the Sale Of Goods Act.

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Pint

Re: Face to face when I have problems

I thought the same when I bought a dSLR - buy in a high street shop then I have somewhere to go back to if/when it goes wrong. I forget the name of the major high street photographic retailer I bought it from but it was something like "Messups".

The body and lens kit cost me about £1300 with accessories. Needless to say when the kit lens failed after three years and 2 months (shortly after the extended warranty expired - I got it for the accidental damage having seen the effect totalling two digital cameras in 12 months does to your household premiums!) I went back to the shop hoping they would be sympathetic. Were they fuck! Was basically told to Fuck off and submit it to their repair agent for a quote as that is the only way they would deal with it. The shop staff while courteous wouldn't/couldn't do anything else about it.

It was only after the camera manufacturer got involved (and looked after me very very well with regard to sorting it out), that "Messups", while still refusing to refund my £150 repair charge, provided me with a £200 gift card as a goodwill gesture.

As far as I'm concerned that camera manufacturer (think ancient artillery launcher) rocks big time and I've bought lots more kit from them since, but next time I buy camera kit I'm buying online or a trusted small specialist retailer and stuff the bricks and mortar stores!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Face to face when I have problems

No, I am not joking. On the couple of occasions when I have had problems with Comet I have managed to get them resolved without much difficulty. No doubt others' experiences vary.

Discounting Comet (pun I know) I still much prefer to interact face-to-face and if necessary will pay a bit more for this. I was lamenting the fact that in general Comet's demise reduces further the opportunity to do this.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Face to face when I have problems @paulf

Why would you expect them to "be sympathetic" when it's out of even an extended warranty? Why not wait another couple of years and see if that would've made any difference? Or twenty? Seems unfair to slag someone off for being a chancer. Fair to slag a whiny chancer off in my book, though :)

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Anonymous Coward

Dis place is like a ghost town...

I recently dropped by the Comet in the town where I grew up. It used to be absolutely cavernous, but a few years ago it was reduced in size by about half, to make enough space for the new big retailer in the unit next door. Now, the Comet is on two floors, with an escalator leading up to the top one (where the white goods are flogged from).

It's probably just as well they "downsized", because if it was still the the "cavern-Comet" of yore, I have no idea who would fill it when the Comet crew leave. In fact, I don't know who'd want the premises even now, as the retail park has quite enough cheap clothes outlets as it is (one of which replaced Borders when it tanked a couple of years ago).

So in all probability, by Christmas there'll be a dark, silent gap - unlikely to be occupied in the foreseeable future - where Comet once stood... which at least will mean it's matching much of the town centre.

Season's Greetings...?

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Anonymous Coward

Having been through this process a couple of times, the stores will close when the administrators think the process will not net them any more fee's. Also don't forget, they get their fees before creditors get anything and you'd be surprised how often there isn't much left after the administrator finishes their job. The poor staff will get pi**ed on while being given hope that someone will take over their store and they'll work twice as hard putting the shite on the shelves that the administrators have left over from other firms they have closed down.

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Anonymous Coward

Agree

I was involved in the liquidation of a small company that was marginally solvent, but would have had a lot of work to keep it going. There was nearly enough cash in the bank to satisfy the creditors once HMRC had their outrageous over-estimates for some late payments corrected.

But an Insolvency Practitioner got involved, and they suggested that it would be easier putting the company into liquidation and everyone moving on, so they were appointed, and that is what happened.

When I got to see the final settlement, the IP had taken more than the lions share of the available cash (measured in 10s of thousands of pounds), and paid almost nothing (I think it was 8p in the pound) to the creditors. And all they appeared to have done were to complete a final set of accounts, locate all the creditors (which was easy as they were given a complete list, together with what they were owed) and arranged and chaired a few meetings that never actually happened because of lack of interest - not even from HMRC. Money for old rope for the IP.

I know that the Comet situation will be very different, but I'm sure the administrators will get whetever they want.

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Silver badge

I remember when...

as a student, I bought my first real HiFi (OK, it was an Amstrad seperates system with a Strathearn [who?] turntable, but was still listed as HiFi in the magazines) from Comet.

The reason I used Comet was the fact that at that time they were box-shifters, selling end-of-line kit at well below the original prices. As things had a longer lifetime then, it did not seem too much of a problem to me, and it meant that I got something that approximated HiFi at a price that I could afford.

That's how they made their name. I was very disappointed when they became a mainstream supplier, but I guess that is where the money was.

Come to think of it, that Amstrad IC2000mkII amp may still be in my loft, heavily modded after being used as an emergency PA for a small venue.

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Anonymous Coward

its a shame

Comet was the store where you were more likly find some one who did know what hey were on about. The did however still employ some plebs.

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