back to article Why did Comet fail? Hint: It wasn't just the credit insurers

Comet's fiscal light was burning less brightly well before OpCapita entered its orbit, but the venture capitalist's involvement snuffed it out entirely. Signs that all was not well can be traced back to 2008, when Comet's profit before tax tumbled from £56m to £25m. In successive years it posted losses of £8m, £3m and finally …


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  1. Bob Vistakin

    "consumers stay away .. avoid dogged selling of extended and expensive warranties"

    Spot on - that's what put me off. They were sold so hard that you couldn't help but look into them properly and realise what a rip off they were. Then you start to wonder if the whole shop was too...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "consumers stay away .. avoid dogged selling of extended and expensive warranties"

      12 years ago I attempted to buy a TV from comet for £1.5k. They spent 10 minutes trying to convince me to take out extended warranty at which point I told them to shut up or lose the sale. They lost the sale.

    2. philbo

      Re: "consumers stay away .. avoid dogged selling of extended and expensive warranties"

      I didn't realize just how much of Comet's profit came from the extended warranty rip-off - although (according to the article) it made £56M (on a turnover of £2B), that included £54M in warranty sales, which has a huge margin compared to the hardware sales.

      You could amost call the hardware business a loss-leader for the warranty one, so when the latter collapsed as people got wise, there wasn't really a hardware business in any real sense of the word.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "consumers stay away .. avoid dogged selling of extended and expensive warranties"

      It's not just the extended warranties - it's the hard selling of peripherals, such as Monster cables that puts people off. My parents were conned into spending £80 on Monster HDMI cables by Comet staff. When they asked if cheaper cables were available they were told that cheaper cables would ruin the quality of the image on their new HDTV. Sadly, they didn't tell Comet where to stick their cables and walk out of the store. Instead they paid up.

      When I found out I hit the roof and got on to Comet HQ - eventually getting to the then CEO. It was only his personal intervention that got a refund for the unwanted cable and an apology. Yet Comet continued to aggressively promote Monster over no-brand cables that were just as good.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "consumers stay away .. avoid dogged selling of extended and expensive warranties"

        Couldn't agree more! We went into Comet to look at TVs a while ago. I asked a question about some models and the guy completely ignored my question and spent 10 minutes trying to flog us some ludicrously priced monster cables. We walked out and straight into the loving arms of Amazon. Flip side we bought a hoover a few months ago from the same shop and not only was the price comparable to online but the sales assistant was actually quite helpful. Some you win...

  2. Mike Brown

    Retailers have to change. They dont have a monopoly on consumers wallets anymore. As proven time and time again, unless they adapt, they will be finished. Comet could have survived and thived, but they, like may other retailers, are stuck in a past mind set. Adapt or die

    1. Dr. Mouse

      Reminds me of several other industries out there which are currently being dragged kicking and screaming out of the 20th century.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    It was bought to be asset stripped. Same will happen to Game. Some murky dealings must have gone on in the background, no company sells itself for £2 and then 'gives' £50m to cover 'liability'.

    I do wonder sometimes if a bit of laundering took place.

    1. Danny 14

      actually they do. Jaguar for one. MG too. If done properly it absolves them from debt for a fresh-ish start. The 50M was to cover "possible eventualities" and was most likely held by parent company as a bond anyway (so written off their books a long time ago).

      However, if the turnaround company turns out to be an asset stripper then this is a bad call.

  4. Pete 2 Silver badge

    A trend, not a case

    There's little point in examining Comet as a simgle instance and saying "this went wrong, they did that badly, there were the following external circumstances ... "

    The simple fact of the matter is that high-street electrical retailing in general is dying off. It starts with the smallest and least well run - but inevitably progresses to the larger, more resilient outfits. The reason: people just don't feel the need to walk into a store, be ignored or get bad advice and then have to wait at home for a delivery - when they can just go clickety-click in their sitting rooms and THEN wait at home for a delivery. Safe in the knowledge that distance selling regulations will absolve them from any mistakes due to poor choices.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: A trend, not a case

      I only use the high-street stores to physically look at the goods, after that I order them off the internet. This isn't limited electrical goods, it applies to most things I buy so I don't think it is just the electrical stores that will have problems.

    2. fajensen

      Re: A trend, not a case

      The reason: people just don't feel the need to walk into a store, be ignored or get bad advice

      Apple stores seem to get it. Lots of staff who knows what they are talking about and they make the sale right in the shop too so you don't have time to regret while waiting in line to pay. Too many retailers focus only on lower prices and even lower operating costs which always gives drab shops, staff that cannot be trusted with condiment management at a fast-food joint due to health & safety issues and "Make Money Now" scams like extended warranties. The "most-valued-customer"-experience is just about the only advantage that the physical shops have over the internet and most are managing to throw even that away!

      1. noboard

        Re: A trend, not a case

        I think Apple stores are a pretty unique case. People have generally made up their mind they want an apple product when they go in and they can't get it cheaper elsewhere. I'm sure other stores would love to be able to follow their lead, but they'd just go to the wall fast with incredibly high overheads. The main difference between employee's in the apple store and PC World is the uniform.

        As for the article, Click and Collect is a must in my opinion. The only reason I wander onto the PC World website is because I can get the product cheaper than in-store and pick it up on the way home. Perfect for those "I need this right now, I can't possibly survive another second without one" moments.

        1. myarse

          Re: A trend, not a case

          I'd say John Lewis are a pretty good case of how to do it right. I bought a Samsung TV of them several years ago for not much more than it would have cost online.

          Great delivery, not only turned up but rang before, offered to set it up ect. Also when it inevitably stopped working two years later due to blown caps I just rang them up, man comes to pick it up next day leaving a comparable replacement TV, and returns it fixed within a week.

          Now if anyone asks for advice where to buy a TV I tell them John Lewis.

  5. Sam Liddicott

    to buy a TV

    A couple of years ago I went to comet to buy a TV and failed. (And still don't have one).

    I went to comet with the express purpose of buying a TV and didn't manage it. One has to ask what happened!

    First, the sales guy said I shouldn't buy a TV based on the quality of the picture on display in store, instead I should explain what I wanted and trust his recommendation.

    I understood why he was saying this because apparent quality will change between watching over-compressed sky news or a blue ray DVD; but I could still see if the artefacts were crisp, and I still wanted to see.

    The real problem seemed to be that comet were incapable of displaying a TV to best advantage. Their sales guy understood that and tried to be helpful.

    But the store display strategy prevented me from buying. No doubt Curry's are the same, so I'm still using a 23 inch monitor to watch DVDs. (I don't buy blue ray anyway)

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: to buy a TV

      As a general rule, it's pot luck whether the TV or Monitor is adjusted to suit the lighting in the store. And, as you say, the quality of the input channel can be dodgy.

      I did have a good experience with Currys, as my elderly father needed a new TV, and I was able to combine a website that showed useful pictures of the remote with being able to take him to see it. It went well.

      That maybe suggests how the surviving retailers can hold their own. They have to combine internet and physical shops in useful ways.

  6. Andrew Baines Silver badge

    OpCapita didn't fail

    They succeeded in what they set out to do - make a big profit from Comet. Whether that was through successful trading or closing down was irrelevant to them.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: OpCapita didn't fail

      Yep another business shafted by an asset stripping VC.

      Who said Gordon Gecko was dead ?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: OpCapita didn't fail

        'Who said Gordon Gecko was dead ?'

        Didn't he just stand for the Republicans?

  7. Lee Dowling

    - No stock on site.

    - Unhelpful, and sometimes just plain incompetent, staff.

    - Pushing warranties that have "con" written all over them (sometimes costing more than the product you bought over the first year, let alone anything else).

    - Nothing of an anywhere near reasonable price.

    When I only visit your shop because I have to (my ex- was a mystery shopper and we use to audit such places for correct stock / pricing on occasion, as well as the normal "buy something, return it next day, then tell them you're a mystery shopper" job), and when I spent most of my time in that shop listening to the incredibly atrocious lies that you tell customers in order to sell them everything you can, that's when you're going to start to disappear if you don't do something to fix it. Honestly, most of the staff in the shop wouldn't know what a random feature you picked off the product description was if you trained them for another year just on that.

    To be honest, I'm not surprised Comet is the first out of all the big names, but I will be surprised if it is the last. Soon to follow: Currys (already absorbed Dixons), PC World and - maybe - even Maplin (though they usually have someone on site who knows what they are doing, most of the sales staff are Comet-rejects, and their prices are basically "price * random * 2" from what I can tell, and their biggest saving grace is a half-decent online store). I haven't been in a phone store for years, but I suspect that most of those suffer the same problems.

    If you own a shop, I need to be able to walk in, feel comfortable, find someone who can convince me I can trust them and that they know what I need, find such suitable products, pay a decent price for them, and walk out with the product same-day if I want (or schedule delivery for some reasonable time-frame for much larger items). That's pretty much 99% of retail. Comet failed on almost all of it, and some other stores are not far behind.

    The fuss about credit insurance, VC, etc. is really just the problems that occurred *AFTER* they got into trouble, when people stopped relying on the local electrical store for all their white goods etc.

    1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      "and - maybe - even Maplin"

      Maplin are already down the tubes. I went their some years ago to buy some 2x20-way IDC headers and they gave me a blank look and said they had no idea what I was talking about, before leafing through the catalog and telling me there was no such thing.

      1. Anonymous Coward 15

        They didn't even stock 74-series logic when I last asked. I buy components on eBay.

      2. Dave Bell

        Maplin has changed a lot.

        Maplin have changed a lot since it was the place for tools and components. It started out mail order, and I sometimes wonder if that side works well in the retail parks and their sheds. But it is far from a total loss. If you remember the old days, it doesn't look so good now.

      3. Vic

        > Maplin are already down the tubes.

        I bought something frmo them a couple of years back. I had to order on-line (they had no stock) to be delivered to a local store.

        I picked the box up and took it home. the kit was DOA, so I returned it.

        Maplins would neither refund nor replace from the store; I had to wait a fortnight for the refund, then re-order.

        So I don't buy from Maplins any longer.


    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Working in the IT department for a piss poor small retailer that is next in line for the administrators, I see everything that is going wrong here without being able to do a thing about it. I wish our MD would read the second to last paragraph in Lee Dowlings post. That absolutely hit the nail square on the head. Well said. Trouble is, our MD never listens to other points of view and he always thinks he is right. I wonder if the management at Commet were equally as blind to their inevitable fate.

    3. Nifty Silver badge

      The Comet Syndrome

      In PC world the other day. No iPad minis in stock (only scratched display model they were not to keen to let me fondle). No Kindle Paperwhites even on display, never mind in stock. Stock spread around a rather large floor space with big gaps in. Not very inviting.


      There is a lot of retail space out there that could be converted into affordable homes.

      1. Lee Dowling

        Re: The Comet Syndrome

        I remember the Maplin of the past too, but in some places it's still there. The problem is that selling one NE555 a month isn't profitable to stock such things all separately or even the time it takes the assistant to dig one out.

        I can understand their shift in their physical stores (stuff that people are likely to wander past and get, rather than go hunting for obscure component X and hope they have it), but they still like to pretend that they can do the technical side too. The mail-order side handles the more esoteric orders pretty well, but the pricing for small orders can be a problem.

        I do remember when most of the Maplin catalogue (which used to be free!) was circuit diagrams and specifications rather than disco equipment and toys. Maplins moved with the times a little though - not perfect, but they realised what would happen to somewhere that was *just* a niche electronics supplier in the high street and adapted. You have to give them credit for that, though how long they can keep it up remains an open question.

        1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

          Re: The Comet Syndrome

          I've been in a few Maplin stores. Look in the back for a sort of "trade counter" type area. That seems to be where all the small parts, cables, IC's are.

          Main shelving is generic "PC stuff".

    4. Captain Scarlet Silver badge

      To be fair Lee

      Normally they had plenty of stock, but never where it should have been on the shelf, god help anyone who asked how much should this be as they would point to the price tag in front >_<

  8. All names Taken

    Just overstretched really?

  9. AdamSweetman

    The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

    Last time I went into my local Comet retail store I was shopping for a slimline dishwasher, being the impatient arse that I am, I wanted it to take away. They had 3 in stock TOTAL, and the 3 were all the budget brand. the display range was about 25 models+.

    One of the last competitive advantages for physical stores is instant availability, take away now, yet Comet failed to capitalize on this single advantage. If the customer walks in, selects a model, then gets told it will be 8-10 days for delivery, of course they will go home and order it from someone who can deliver it next day. Having a very small selection of take home today items is pretty much useless unless you are very crafty with model selection, which in my case they clearly were not.

    Having a shop isn't a bad thing in today's world, but you need to build your model to capitalize on its unique selling points, not try to out-compete the on-line environment by being an advice/selection centre with piss-poor fulfilment.

    1. TheOtherHobbes

      Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

      So if they had 25 models on display and 3 stock units for each, that's 75 dishwashers out the back.

      Repeat for fridges, cookers, and the rest, and multiply by the number of stores, and that's an entire warehouse of stock per store, with the cost of rental space, credit for the stock, and possible losses on items that never sell, just on the off-chance someone wants to take away a big item.

      How often do people do that? Not often, I'd guess.

      Reality is the delivery items are kept at the manufacturer's stock depot, which may not even be in the UK. Or they're built to order.

      Which means that unless you want to prod before buying, you may as well shop online, because delivery times will be similar.

      White goods stores are basically a catalogue you can walk around in. It's really, really hard to imagine how they could be more than that now.

      There's possibly a small market for high-end domestic consultancy[tm] where stores provide a complete kitchen experience[tm]. But most people buy on price, and stores are currently a good way to destroy value, not add to it.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

        "So if they had 25 models on display and 3 stock units for each, that's 75 dishwashers out the back."

        Then you dont sell 25 models in the shop! Or segragate "display for order" and "available now". That way you dont piss your customers off. I remember shopping in a place in Preston called apollo 2000. This place did a roaring trade - the reason was the item on display was the item you took. The showroom WAS the warehouse. No messing about and they haggled too. Bought pretty much all my white goods from there till I moved away.

        1. Richard 12 Silver badge

          Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

          Indeed, I see no reason why this kind of "home electricals" shop can't offer "Next day delivery" on pretty much everything, with "Take Home Right Now" on a small selection - clearly marked as such.

          Ok, if you live too far away from a major city then next-day can't happen, but you wouldn't need many depots. We do next-day for most of the country on goods of similar sizes from just one depot - ok, higher margin goods but still.

          Argos, John Lewis and Amazon do 3-day home delivery on white goods, while holding a much greater range of products. Comet didn't appear to do that.

          I rather suspect that Comet didn't actually hold any stock of many of their lines, and was trying to buy from their suppliers after the customer purchase as that's the only way I can think of to justify a 2-week lead time. It was certainly impossible to get a replacement for a failed unit in a reasonable time both occasions it happened to me - ended up with refunds and bought replacements from John Lewis, much faster.

          The Comet staff were also really pushy and rude, so I decided never to go back - and I laughed when I saw my local Comet being boarded up earlier this week.

      2. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. Dave Pickles

      Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

      That's how Comet started in the late 1960s. They traded out of an old textile warehouse in Leeds which was packed floor-to-ceiling with boxes. There was nothing on display, make your choice elsewhere then just collect the box. Their prices were *way* lower than the high street, plus they sold real hi-fi (Quad, Armstrong, Leak et al) at a discount which was unheard of at the time.

      Shame to see how things turned out.

    3. Peter Gathercole Silver badge

      Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

      Being a person to whom if it works then it's good enough (form follows function), I've ended up getting most of the white goods I've needed to buy recently (mainly washers and driers) from our local Co-Op.

      OK, you often only have a choice of 1 or 2, but they take are prepared to sell the display model if they don't have any 'out back', and give a discount and full warranty if you end up with the display model.

      Walk in (even quite late at night), see what they have, check whether it should do the job, go to the till, get the duty manager paged, purchase, and take out to the car, often being helped by the manager themselves! It's that simple (helped by the fact that we've got an MPV).

      You have to put up with a small choice, and the brands that they stock, but so far, we've always got something that will do the job! I know that will not suit everybodies shopping needs, but it works for us.

      In reality, not having devices available in stock is a direct concequence of too much choice. As pointed out bu a previous poster, it is simply not possible to keep several instances of every item if you have a large range being displayed, especially when it comes to white-goods.

      In some respects, I would prefer to have guaranteed availability in store of a smaller range flagged on the display, with other items on display carrying expected delivery information. This makes sure that immediate availabillity can be part of the customer decision up front, rather than making it something you have to initiate a dialogue with the sales person in order to find out that they have.

      The other thing I find amusing when looking through the spare parts listings for white goods is how many of the different brands are built in the same factories using the same parts, and only differ in cosmetic detail. It would be so much nicer to not have the same device with a different brand confusing the potential customer and cluttering up the display in these sales-warehouses.

      1. John Smith 19 Gold badge

        Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability

        "In some respects, I would prefer to have guaranteed availability in store of a smaller range flagged on the display, with other items on display carrying expected delivery information. This makes sure that immediate availabillity can be part of the customer decision up front, rather than making it something you have to initiate a dialogue with the sales person in order to find out that they have."

        This sounds *very* pragmatic to me but of course that means *senior* management (at HO level) have to do some actual *thinking* about what to stock and what to hold centrally. Such *hard* choices on the pittance they are paid (yeah right).

  10. James Cooke

    Really a surprise?

    When you run a store with staff who know nothing selling overpriced goods?

    We were replacing our fridge last year and looked at one with an inbuilt water dispenser and a big label on the front that says "pure filtered water" (or words to that effect) so we ask a chirpy store droid whether that includes limescale removal.

    Cue a 5 minute trip to ask someone.

    "No it doesn't just impurities"

    "Oh like what?"

    Cue an expression on her face that suggested we should know that our water is horribly impure and should always be drunk filtered.

    "So do the filters need changing"

    "Oh yes" she beamed "we have a subscription plan to sell you a years supply of filters so you don't need to worry about running out for £x" a horribly inflated price.

    To top it all online they had the same fridge as a "special online only offer" with a slightly different product code for about £200 less. Are you surprised you're out of business when you treat customers like mugs?

    1. Dan 55 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Really a surprise?

      Online only offers are a rather quite good idea, you just roll up with a print out from their own website, get a close look at the product, tell them to match it in the shop, and walk away with whatever it is you're buying. They can't really argue against matching the price as delivery would cost them more compared to you leaving the shop with it and that shop would lose a sale.

    2. SteveK

      Re: Really a surprise?

      "When you run a store with staff who know nothing selling overpriced goods?"

      Indeed. On the occasions I have been in there to consider buying things, I've tried asking the person-from-that-department the differences between two similar products, and their help has consisted of reading out to me what it says on the specification sheet taped to the products. Well, thanks, I can read for myself.

      When I was looking for a new fridge/freezer earlier this year, this even confused the salesdroid as the make and model was the same, except for two additional letters on the product code, and an extra £100. Everything else was identical. Since I clearly wasn't just going to buy it, he went off to the back room to "find out", and after half an hour still hadn't come back. So I went home and bought one online.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tried to buy a TV

    I went into my local comet a couple of years ago and was ready to buy a new TV. The store was pretty much empty apart from me and I asked if they could match the price of another retailer who was a little bit further away, NO was the answer, I drove to the other place and bought it there.

  12. Bob Vistakin

    They'd become mere showrooms for Amazon

    The typical costs of the white goods on sale forced consumers to be savvy. Here's a thought - what would happen if the rest of this gang - Currys, PC World etc all went the same way? Amazon would *have* to open retail stores - probably in the same premises.

    1. Alan Firminger

      Re: They'd become mere showrooms for Amazon

      Curry's is PC World ( or vice versa ) . So who else ?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    Also known as "the elephant in the room". Even non tech-savvy people I know just order a lot of their electrical equipment stuff on-line now (or buy it in Tesco with their weekly shop, but that's another story). Cheaper, no pressure sales, you can return stuff if you changed your mind (ever try doing that in Comet?) and next day delivery on most things.

    I believe this is what's known as "failure to adapt" and no amount of "should have done this or that financial thing to build confidence" is going to help with that, except maybe prolong things a bit.

    1. fajensen

      Re: Amazon

      you can return stuff if you changed your mind

      In Sweden, they just look the thin over and zap the money right back into the credit card. They only ask if it is broken and you want a replacement or the money. So, I tend to buy most complicated items like computers, clothes and HiFi in the physical shops rather than faff about with returning mail order. Most physical shops here have a complimentary web shop with the same goods and the same prices. So you can get it Now by going to the shop or wait and get it by mail.

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree many shops have just become a way to browse before buying online but it also works the other way.

    I recently bought a new Dyson, searching the internet for the best deal which was amazingly at Currys. Ordered for a pickup in store and 30 minutes later was vacuuming (well OK the wife was vacuuming). This is how physical shops need to compete, price and service.

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    More competition and less buyers. Comet was the place many went to buy white goods and with less first time buyers and more competition from Apollo 2000 and others it just didn't have enough sales.

    I've even seen my local Co-op supermarket selling the odd washing machine from time to time.

    1. CaptainCorrection

      More competition and less buyers

      * Fewer * buyers

      Thank you!

  16. This post has been deleted by its author

  17. Ojustaboo

    Most high street shops are doomed to failure, times change.

    All the big ones (and many small ones) have become a jack of all trades and expert at none. A few weeks ago I needed a new rechargeable battery for my sons xbox.

    Normally I would have bought on-line, but needed it urgently, so Saturday afternoon, I set out to buy one.

    I simply wanted a rechargeable battery for around the £10 - £15 mark bearing in mind I could get a MS one online for £12 or a twin pack from a 3rd party for around £9.

    I went everywhere, what stood out to me was they all were the same.

    Didn't matter whether it was Tesco, Comet, Currys etc they had a tiny selection of lots of things and they all seemed to have a very similar tiny selection. Didn't matter whether it was a PC mouse, an Xbox or PS3 accessory or what, it was dismal.

    I initially didn't find one shop that had a 3rd party rechargeable battery and the few that did have a MS one in stock were around double the price if not more than I could buy online

    All of them had ones available online at a fairly reasonable price, but the actual stores were a joke.

    I finally went to blockbusters only to get told by the sales assistant that they didn't sell them and I had to point out to her that they were infact hanging on the wall behind her.

    So I spent about 2 hrs finding a store with one in stock, driving al over the place and paid £5 more for 1 than I could get two for online.

    Tesco started selling things like tools etc and in all honestly became a sort of pound shop, selling really really crap quality stuff at inflated prices.

    Comet, you'd walk in the shop staff would pounce on you, you would politely tell them to go away and they never ever had what I wanted to buy in their stores.

    Argos, I use Argos as it's open until 8pm and if I need something urgently, I can quickly pick it up. But recently, almost everything I want is only available online. Its now getting to the point where I don't even bother looking any more.

    Online, I can buy at a considerably cheaper price, I have far far far far more choice, I have the distance selling regs to protect me, I haven't got to drive, I know its in stock (usually) before I order.

    Going to the shops, they have a very very limited range, staff often seem smarmy or pushy, rarely have what I want in stock, always more expensive and the one very rare time I used PCworld as I needed something urgently, I reserved online to pick up at the store (was told was in stock), drove 20 miles to the shop only to find they lied.

    I can order at 10:55pm on Ebuyer, pay something like £10 and have it delivered next day and still be a LOT cheaper than I can buy it in a store

    I use town centre and out of town shopping places less and less, as to most people I know. My wife has a lot of elderly clients in her job, the vast majority have no problems using a PC and much prefer ordering online to having to go out and get a bus etc.

    So with places like Oxford Street aside, give it a few years, I see the average town centre as being completely dead, or having to change completely and become more entertainment and relaxation places than shopping places.

    1. Spleen

      So you could have bought it online but because you needed it now it cost double the price? That is, in some respects, neither unusual nor immoral. If I haven't bothered to make sandwiches yesterday, then I will need to pay double for a pair from the shop what I could have paid for the ingredients. And they won't taste as nice or be as filling either.

      Obviously the problem Comet couldn't survive just on the minority who need something urgently.

      Also, you could have saved money by telling your son it won't kill him to play outside for a few days.

      1. Ojustaboo

        I love the way you presume my 19 yr old son should play outside :)

        When he gets home from uni at Christmas, I'll suggest it to him. I was going out anyway and said I'd see if I could get him one.

        Your missing my point though, very very very poor limited range, and the same very poor limited range wherever I went, and most not having the products in stock.

        I usually do all my shopping online except for food shopping, while I was trying to find his battery, I looked at other things in the stores and said to my wife "and they wonder why so many stores are closing"

        A few of this, a few of that, higher prices and much lower choice.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "Also, you could have saved money by telling your son it won't kill him to play outside for a few days."

        I agree here, if it was for anything other than a games console accessory I could understand the messing about shop hopping. I cant see a single thing that would justify the urgency of a rechargeable battery pack. Besides the extra cost of the retail shops, the petrol and my time has to come into account. and why couldn't little johnny go down the shops and get his own battery pack?

        But the ultimate fail has to be that you never thought to pick up a pack of batteries from a supermarket for use while the online shop managed delivery !

        I accept I have to pay more than I would online in a retail outlet, but that premium has to be because of immediate availability.... If I cant justify thee premium, then you just have to wait !!

  18. Anonymous Coward

    Interesting analysis

    Everyone has said it although I would suggest making the stores identical is part of their downfall.

    For example when I grew up in Plymouth, there were 3 games within 300 metres of each other. One speacialised in Sega, one predominatly had Nintendo and one did Playstation. Now when I go into Plymouth city centre there are 4 Games and 1 Gamestation. They sell exactly the same stuff (same shelf sapce for Wii, PS3, xBox 360, Vita, etc..), there is no reason to go in one over the other and if it isn't in the chart don't bother.

    Over the weekend i wanted a PS3 AV To VGA cable we tried 2 comets, 3 curry's 2 maplins, 1 PC World, 1 game, 1 gamestation, 2 Argos's, B&Q & 2 HMV's. All of them had exactly the same accessories at the same price point. That was accross Gloucester & Cheltenham. The only place that understood what I was after was in a Maplins in Gloucester and the guy in there said they had ran out 2 weeks ago and hadn't had any in since.

    Firstly having more than one store within 5 miles seems wastefull, secondly if you are going to have multiple make sure they aim at different markets.

  19. Ojustaboo

    I needed to buy a new car battery today.

    From my local Halfords (not including fitting), Bosch HSB013 £119.99

    Just bought the exact same battery on line including next day delivery for £75.89

    That is why I buy nearly everything online

    1. Lee Dowling

      Indeed. It's not just a question of a pound or two, either. That's, what, 36% saving? And the guy who sold it to you still has to have had made a profit, set up a website, kept stock, posted it to you, paid taxes, tracked customers, etc.

      If it was a few pounds difference, Amazon and a lot of web shops would see an awful lot less custom. But when something is esoteric, rare, or just plain stupidly expensive for no good reason, they go elsewhere. Shocking that.

      It's not even like it's a Tesco-style "let's make all the little guys nearby suffer by taking a loss while profiting elsehwere", this is a one-off purchase of an item specifically within their product range that I can get cheaper from smaller outfits selling the exact same product who I will probably only use one a decade, if that.

    2. mark 63 Silver badge

      I have all the usual opinions of Halfrauds - over priced shiny gear knobs etc.

      But when I needed a 3 pronged puller to remove the bottom pulley from a crankshaft , at 3:30 on a sunday afternoon - halfords came through for me , at a reasonable price too.

      Thats when the net cant help you.

      Any other time shop around!

      and congrats on the battery - i bet that wasnt cheap to post too!

      1. Ojustaboo

        When I found it, I expected it to cost a fortune to post.

        But no.

        Battery £71.94

        Next day delivery £3.95

        Total £75.89

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      first mistake is halfords! they are ok if you want chav mobile accessories, but the staff in there are as useless as comet.

      the best place to get car parts is always your local motor factors. next to that is a new chain that s popping up everywhere, euro car parts.... you could have got a battery for your laguna starting at £56....

      1. Ojustaboo

        But I didn't buy the cheapest battery.

        The place that delivered my Bosch battery today, had batteries for my Laguna starting at £49.14 including vat and free delivery

  20. Christopher Rogers

    The world of retail is changing

    We all know what has happened in the world with credit crunch, financial crisis and online stores battering the tripe out of bricks and mortar operations. Before the first 2 happened (retailers should have seen Amazon coming at least), companies like Comet thought they were on a pigs back and expanded almost out of control. Now reality has taken its bite.

    You can't blame the VC's for doing what they do best - making a profit out of such massive collapses. The short sighted management teams of these firms allowed such a position to exist.

    Eventually the supermarkets are going to wipe out the big box shifters and online shopping is here to stay. The future for electrical retailers is a hybrid of in town small retail stores, combined with a brilliant online presence and a great delivery service. Though the factor that will dictate the most is the experience in store - very highly trained professional staff and less effort to punt the bloody insurance deal at you.

    1. Vic

      Re: The world of retail is changing

      > The future for electrical retailers is a hybrid of in town small retail stores

      The future for electrical retailers is entirely on-line. Their former premises will be taken over by collection depots, who receive your on-line orders on your behalf and let you pick them up at a convenient time...


  21. mark 63 Silver badge

    news to me

    I thought it was beacause Comet airframes began suffering catastrophic metal fatigue, with three of them tearing apart during mid-flight in well-publicised accidents. The Comet was withdrawn from service and extensively tested to discover the cause; the first incident had been incorrectly blamed on adverse weather. Design flaws including window shape and installation methodology were ultimately identified;

    1. The Godfather

      Re: news to me

      They did, and De Havilland kept a little quiet about it at the time. By the time the problem was fixed with versions 2-4, Boeing took over the World.

      Not quite the same Comet...but close

      1. Danny 14

        Re: news to me

        Nimrods are still going strong(ish) though. Did they strengthen the airframe?

        1. Anonymous Coward

          Re: news to me

          Which Nimrods would they be then? The ones that were cut up for scrap or the ones that are now in museums?

  22. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    So get £54m in *cash* (-> parent) from the previous owner and paid for the deal on *credit*

    I find their lack of faith in there retail ability disturbing....

  23. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Physical presence

    Back in the 1990s I managed a car repair business. We could fit 2 cars in the workshop at any one time, and had space outside to allow cars to be parked for delivery/collection (and to be worked on if the weather wasn't too bad).

    Business rates were c. £3,000 p.a. (but when I left the UBR escalator was dragging them up to £10,000)

    Insurance was £2,500 p.a.

    Electricity (no gas) standing charge as £250 p.a. as was

    B.T Line rental

    Paraffin (for heating) £1,000 p.s.

    that gives a MINIMUM of £7,000 that you have to make before you open the gate in the morning. Or, to put it another way, each and every week, you need to have over £100. And then customers grumbled because you wouldn't work for free.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: Physical presence

      And that's the problem for a large number of high street vendors.

      Someone mentioned earlier on about the closure of town centres and whilst it's very sad, it seems inevitable in the case of a large number of them.

      Landlords (and I very much include local councils in that) continue to increase their rent levels, which hasn't helped a large number of smaller businesses which are struggling in the current economic climate. Many of those businesses (and some multiples) then close their premises either by choice, or because they're financially forced to, leaving the unit empty.

      Landlords don't seem to get that empty unit = no rent.

      What they need to do is lower those rents. Although by lowering overall rents it may result in lower income in the short term, it strengthens those businesses and will create a more successful shopping environment which will allow them to earn more in the longer term.

      Typical short term planning!

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Physical presence

        My nearest shopping mall - the Kingfisher in Redditch - is a microcosm of the past 4 years. Woolworths, Birthday, Past Times, Officers Club, Alders, TJ Hughes, JJB Sports, Millets. Plus the units that were already empty. I would guess there are 15 empty retail units. And frankly I can't see them ever being filled again. The place has already reached card/mobile phone/shoe even horizon.

        Maybe they should start charging full rates on empty units after a 6 month period ?

  24. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    A fifteen-month year?

    I wondered why 2008 was so tiring.

  25. Madboater

    Lacked any competitive edge or USP

    Firstly a lot of people who only use bricks and mortar stores to see good before buying online are shooting yourself in the foot, eventually those stores will go out of business and you will have no way of viewing your purchase. However saying that, I would argue that comet or any of the large electronic retailers could not offer anything that the internet couldn't, no one needs a sales staff to read the specs, and then sales staff cant offer up reviews or go into more detail about the product like you can on the internet. This is where I see the high street picking things up, small stores, with people who know what they are talking about, this is where people will want to go, as long as people support the service they receive.

    Not so long ago, I popped into Comet with a list for a load of kitchen appliances, they were willing to match some of the prices, however tried to sell me the extended warranty . My reply was the John Lewis offer an extended warranty with the price that they were going to match, will they include the warranty? They replied no, so I asked them for a good reason for me not to go to John Lewis, all they could do was say that they had spent the time in helping me select the appliances, I pointed out I had already done this before I came into the store, they then started to plead with me to buy from them, when I refused they got quite aggressive. I wonder why they failed?

  26. fiddley
    Thumb Up

    Bit of schadenfreude in this for me because back in about '99ish I was Comet shop floor staff but I was working down at the head office for a bit. I got caught by the regional sales manager in the corridor, he asked me what I thought of HQ. I said to him "You need to sort out some kind of eCommerce website because otherwise your sales are going to get eaten up by Amazon" Laugh? He damn nearl spat his coffee all over me before retorting "We don't see the internet as a big part of our business" before going about his business. So, I went away thinking I was stupid while him and the rest of them set Comet on a path to self destruction. Ha. Hope he got state mimimum redundancy.

  27. Robert E A Harvey

    Power of the public

    Comet died because people were not buying things from them.

    There may be a hundred reasons for that but in the end it was the oldest retail truth in the world. The Customer is always Right.

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