back to article Misco UK chops majority of workforce, pulls down shutters

Misco UK has laid off 300 staff, as expected, after ceasing to trade and appointing administrative receiver FRP Advisory to pick through the ashes of the loss-making business. El Reg revealed at the start of this week that the Northamptonshire-based firm’s boss Alan Cantwell was trying to raise additional funds to rescue the …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Maybe their financial plight is partly due to their policy of raping the rainforests to send out their brochures?

    In my last employment I banned anyone from ordering from them. The number of brochures that arrived from them was criminal.

    Many addressed to fictitious people. They would ring up and ask for names of employees - 'who is your production manager' etc and then add them to their mailing list.

    After many fruitless complaints, they lost our custom.

    1. Captain Scarlet

      Like any other such company?? (Looking at you inmac, Micro Warehouse, BT Business, ...)

    2. steviebuk Silver badge

      About the comment on the brochures. You do realise lots of people used paper from sustainable forests. Trees planted and grown specifically for paper production? Chop a tree down, plant another one.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "About the comment on the brochures. You do realise lots of people used paper from sustainable forests. "

        Well bearing in mind that hardwood is too expensive and to hard to process, it's very rare to find paper that ever comes from rainforests in most of the world.

        I think he was using a bit of poetic license.

      2. Commswonk

        Chop a tree down, plant another one.

        And they converted themselves into paper with printing without any CO2 being generated how exactly?

      3. paulf

        @ steviebuk "You do realise lots of people used paper from sustainable forests."

        I think you've missed the point I think the OP AC was making. Sending a few more brochures (perhaps 10 instead of 5) may be worth doing if it got the Misco message in front of the right pairs of eyes (i.e. those making the buying decisions).

        Carpet bombing an organisation with brochures is 1. Going to piss people off because dealing with them then disposing of them would be an unsolicited cost on the recipient business and 2. Do you really think sending brochures to stacks of made up names and Maureen the cleaning lady is going to increase the number of Enterprise x86 servers and Cisco switching kit Misco could sell. That's before you consider the cost of producing and posting all those brochures has to be recouped from somewhere - i.e. muggins customers that did buy from them.

        It appears some PHB thought more brochures sent = more $$$ which was BS

    3. katrinab Silver badge


      Their marketing manager was convinced that they were losing sales because they didn't send out enough brochures, and there might be someone out there who forgot they existed because they hadn't seen a brochure in the previous 5 minutes.

      Also, that every customer, no matter how small, had an unlimited number of staff who might buy computer related stuff.

      The KPIs required staff to continually invent new names to meet their targets.

    4. big_D Silver badge

      I remember the days of Computing and Computer Weekly, I could never afford a subscription, but I worked in an office with 30 employees and we got at least 40 copies a week...

      I remember my mother complaining to Computing back in the 80s, she was a personnel manager, and asked them to stop sending copies for people who no longer worked at the company. The response was, that it was cheaper to keep sending the copies than to try and take them out of the circulation list!

    5. TonyJ

      "...raping the rainforests to send out their brochures?..."

      Learning Tree International, anyone?

      Jesus they sent some trash out in the 90's

    6. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Carbon sink

      One way to take CO2 out of the atmosphere is to turn sustainable regularly replanted forests into paper catalogues which get buried unread in dry enough landfill covered securely so that it doesn't start generating methane. No I'm not proposing this. Just saying.

  2. dc_m

    Misco were always good for a third quote. Guaranteed they would be more expensive than anyone else.

  3. Lysenko

    This sort of disintermediation has been going on for decades...

    There's still room for people like Maplin because sometimes you need a spare hard drive or Ethernet cable now rather than by 9am tomorrow, but outfits like Misco are as irrelevant as high street travel agencies. They either needed to start adding value (which means more staff on higher salaries) or pivot to be a sort of specialized Yodel, delivering the stuff people order directly from Dell or Amazon. They did neither, and continued living in their nostalgic fantasy world where people pick up the phone and say: "Hello? Hello? Operator?? Ah yes, jolly good, could you connect me to Misco please? Yes. Yes, that's a trunk call. Holborn 223 I think. What's that? "Direct dialling"? Oh no, I wouldn't know where to begin!"

  4. The Godfather

    Oh Dear

    Insurers react to events, one of which is deteriorating performance and financial instability. Not paying HMRC or suppliers is one aspect of this.

    No good blaming credit insurers or HMRC demanding its money. The fault lies in the business itself, the model, its historical trajectory and path and the very nature of what it does.

    My experience has always been that businesses bought for just £1 offer just one thing- an opportunity to make some fast money, strip out certain assets and distance parts of the business that may have greater shelf life. Misco, as a brand and a business model is a throw back and cannot change sufficiently to move into new areas and activity.

  5. ukgnome

    That is quite saddening

    The Misco catalogue was always the argos catalogue for IT workers.

    Sad times to see them go the way of Tandy

    Still at least there is Maplins

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: That is quite saddening

      I find cpc farnell useful, and normally a free three working day delivery turns into next day, by ups.

      Shame about misco, ordered something from them last month, quick delivery also.

      They were on my anti amazon list (use amazon for finding stuff and then go elsewhere)

  6. wolfetone Silver badge

    Well where do I get my refurished ThinkPad's from now then?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Ebay, like the rest of us.

      Else 10 seconds on Google will give you a whole range of alternates.

    2. Captain Scarlet

      If you can remember the make they tended to order direct for items like that (Actually includes a lot of items like Lindy items, HP Parts). The past few years I would say under half our orders actually came from a Systemax warehouse.

      1. wolfetone Silver badge

        It's been a few years since I last ordered one from Misco, but I'm sure T1 did it?

        1. Captain Scarlet

          Yeah search Tier1online (Other such refurbishers who include a years warranty also available).

          They had a more recent company starting with green but I can't remember its name.

          1. wolfetone Silver badge

            Will give them a look.

    3. Gra4662

      Where to buy refurbished Thinkpads?

      Morgan Computers :)

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Isn't this just the same as we see with many boxshifters.....

    ......failure to adapt to a changing market then 'surprise' when their inertia eventually catches up with them.

    I remember the days when mags like Personal Computer World and Computer Shopper ran to over 500 pages a month (and probably two thirds of those pages were adverts).

    With the acceleration of smartphones adoption there's been less and less need to 'upgrade' your PC every year or two and a subsequent shrink in the PC market.

    Consolidation has added to this and unless you have a USP 'niche' then what are you?

    If you don't think the market has changed enormously in the last decades just walk down Tottenham Court Road, these days over 50% of the shops are non electronics, in the 80s every shop on the road and a fair few just off it were all electronics and computing of some form

    1. Dave K

      Re: Isn't this just the same as we see with many boxshifters.....

      Well, smartphones and the fact that PCs have plateaued massively in recent years. People don't need to replace them anywhere near as often.

      In the 90s and up to the late 2000s, a PC that was 4 years old would be below the minimum specs for games, and would be increasingly struggling with other software too. It would be obsolete and in need of pretty much complete replacement. For example when Windows 98 came out, a high-end PC would have had a Pentium II 350 with maybe 128MB of RAM. 4 years later when XP comes along, such a system would have struggled to run even the latest OS, let alone much software on top of it.

      Now, PCs that are 7 or 8 years old will happily run Windows 10 (well, as happily as anyone can run Windows 10...), and will still run the latest Office as well as most games (albeit with quality reduced). My own main PC at home is still a 1st gen Core i5 3.2GHz system from 2009, with just a bit more RAM and a new graphics card popped in over time.

      Result is people replacing kit a lot less often, unless you happen to work for a company with a fixed refresh cycle.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Isn't this just the same as we see with many boxshifters.....

      Times change. No Micro Anvika, Gultronics etc.

      Can't buy cars in Warren Street anymore.

      That's life......

  8. Laughing Gravy

    The Greenock warehouse was a twenty minute drive from me and when they still had the customer pick up point open it did very good business. Need a hard drive, cables, any kind spare just check the website for stock availability and nip down there, it was always busy. Often got bargains with returned goods and a discount as I git to know the staff. Then they closed it and I never bought from them again.

  9. LeahroyNake

    Lucky account manager

    My Misco account manager was made redundant just after they sold for £1. He was and still is a nice guy and I have followed him to his new company.

    I really don't mind paying a little extra for the account management and 30 day terms. Love the fact that I can just send him a list and get a quote back in an hour etc its also easier than faffing about on amazon.

  10. Vince

    Used to use Misco in an old job, never the cheapest. But we had a "Premier" account. This mostly translated to ... free shipping (as long as you reminded your account manager EVERY time), additional phone calls to make you buy stuff, and promises of freebies you never got...

    On the flip side, it was an acceptable supplier and they also sold stuff like chairs I was able to sign off without having to go and ask since it came from an IT supplier so was within my signing rights, hence good chairs for everyone in my office.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Management vanity cost their people their jobs

    Management from the past 5-6 years should take a long look at themselves. The vanity strategy of turning into a services business distracted everyone from the one thing Misco was always good at: shifting boxes. They had a decent collection of teams (when UK based) that were really good at supply chain logistics but it wasn’t sexy enough for new (and cowtailing old) management. In a difficult few years for the industry the smart thing to do would be to focus on what you’re good at and protect that business. But Misco management decided to focus on a cutthroat services game where there were many players who were much more established and did it better than them.

    There’s a Reg article here somewhere about Misco’s CEO claiming they’d be bigger than Computacenter in 5 years. Well 5 years later CC are still going strong and Misco is toast. The highly paid management team that made that happen should be embarrassed. I hope that the many good people let down by them find new jobs quickly.

  12. Franco

    Sorry for the work force but they have long been overpriced and under-delivered on service. Account manager takes ages to respond to any contact, or goes on holiday without an out-of-office, and when you could finally get an order placed it never arrived when it was supposed to.

  13. PhilPotter

    Feel sorry for workforce

    Our account manager Phil at Misco was a nice chap, always responded promptly and helped us out as well. Very efficient, and I feel sad that he and 300 others are out of a job personally :-( I loved the fact I could send him a list of stuff and he would go and source it for me - some of it fairly obscure too. I wish them the best of luck in finding new positions.

  14. blokedownthepub

    Not surprising

    I stopped using them around 2012 when every "in stock, next day" item took three weeks to arrive.

    1. katrinab Silver badge

      Re: Not surprising

      We were not allowed to tell customers the item was out of stock, even if it was a discontinued item that was never going to come back into stock again. Then you would get a phone call a few weeks later to try and cross-sell something else.

      Sorry, we cant send you a copy of Windows 95, would you like to buy Office 95 instead?

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