And that is the problem. It isn't their fault. Stock just does not move.
It's hard for anybody in retail. Each square inch of floor space has to earn it's keep. And if a rack of components sells a few quid of stock a week, it is more expensive than a rack that sells tens of items a day.
Here in England it seems, we are luckier than Americans. Fast postal service means we can have components delivered next day. And there are loads of UK based traders on Ebay who buy in bulk and make up hobbyist scale orders for a small markup.
Many here seem to be reluctant to buy smart.
1 resistor.. Don't do it. 100 resistors, and you have the beginnings of a bits box that is actually useful. Go on ebay, and find the people who are selling bargain packs. If it takes a week to arrive, so what. The money you will save over the blister packed over priced singles is enough to make it worth it.
Yes and no. It might move if they were items people actually wanted/needed. The majority of the stuff that's been sitting on the shelves in my local RS is random obscure stuff that nobody wants. The bread and butter components like resistors, transistors, diodes, useful ICs, they don't stock (bar one "resistor pack" containing 5 of every resistor value known to man - who's ever gonna buy more than one of those?). Heck, they don't even have soldering irons.
But that's what they have back/stock rooms for. A big box full of resistors in a back room, or even a drawer of them under the counter isn't using any retail display space. All you need do is ask the salesperson for however many you want of whatever size, and (s)he gets 'em out! Small components don't *need* to be out on display to be in stock. Even if they didn't stock every value of everything, which I wouldn't really expect them to, you think they'd at least stock the more common components. 10K pots, a dozen of the popular resistor & capacitor values, LEDs, etc.
Even some neat kits, like the Adafruit clocks, the egg-bot, etc. would be a good start toward at least looking like they're still a hobbyist-friendly electronics retailer.
The "electronics section" of my local shop is a wall about 15ft wide by 8ft high of this mostly useless stuff - THAT'S a waste of retail space. The rest of the store is iPod docks, (a limited amount of) DJ equipment, a handful audio cables (mics & mixers, yet no XLR cables?!?) and cheap indoor radio controlled controlled toy helicopters.
I've found Rapid to be even cheaper than most UK based eBay sellers. Not always cheaper than the Chinese ones (sometimes though), but then it obviously takes a bit more time to get to you.
I don't think it's a matter of not wanting to buy smart, but if you only need a couple of bits, the convenience of being able to buy locally while you're in town anyway is worth the little extra cost (especially if you're impatient and need to get your project finished now! ). If you're buying a whole lot of stuff, sure, get it online, but if all you needed was a couple of those 100nf caps, you wouldn't really care about spending 60p while you're in the area anyway.
That's the route I've taken to. I've probably spent about the same as I would've spent had I been buying locally, however as I've been buying 50-100 of everything at a time for the same price, the wife's moaning a bit about the lack of space that's starting to accumulate now.
But does it actually move?... Within say a 5 mile radius, how many people do you know who buy components regularly? Not just an emergency resistor or two once in a blue moon.
And the back room also attracts rent, heat, light.. A box of cheap nasty screwdrivers will take up more space than a box of resistors, but the screwdrivers will always move. And realistically, it is not going to be one cardboard box with say 50 different values to rummage around in. It will be a rack of bins with a product number that the sales person can pick from. Do you keep all your resistors mixed up in a single box? Even with a colour code calculator, it would take the average sales person at these shops a significant amount of time to pick your order.
Electronics shops these days are pretty much Argos without the back room Morlocks. I think Maplin even has those same little pens. If they can't type in the reference number, forget it.
Those would be good. And stand a chance of moving. Well.. the cheaper ones that is. Especially if displayed well. With say the Ice Tube clock made up and running to show off what these kits are like. I quite fancy making one of those myself. Also, things like Arduino starter kits. Power supply kits for breadboards and the like. A little transistor tester circuit would be a good enough soldering practice project, and result in a useful tool at the end. Stuff that is pretty much self contained and immediately useful. And importantly.. you can plonk it down on the counter for the salesperson to scan the bar code, and ring up.
Thanks for the tip. I'll check them out. I've been using Bitsbox and made an order with Spiratronics a few days ago. Not the cheapest of them all, but a good middle ground. Haven't used China for anything but a breadboard so far. And that took a month to arrive.
And if you were only ever going to make one thing. Fair enough. But realistically..
I may be way off base here.. But I see buying ones of anything like this to be similar to making a special trip to a chain hardware shop and buying a single nail. The effort involved in getting the thing is several times it's value. And I'm pretty patient anyway, so waiting a day or two is no big deal.
One of the dubious joys of being single.. I can buy as many toys as I can afford without getting the look.
Yikes. That is one thing I would NEVER buy direct from China. Especially at those low prices, they might as well just brand them "counterfeit" right up front and be out with it. I have bought even "name brand" SDHC cards from official, highly reliable US retail outlets that turned out to be counterfeit. This is a HUGE problem for those of us who need GENUINE Class 10 SDHC cards for our HD video cameras. Counterfeit SDHC cards are rampant. Check the serial numbers with the official manufacturer's website. I'm still looking for a straightforward SDHC speed test utility.
Chances are it probably doesn't as, like me, the people I know around here who are into electronics don't buy from there because of the limited supply/variety and extortionate prices.
I've been into Maplins near Blackpool a couple of times in the last 5 years, and yes, they're mostly useless too.
Exactly. Having things like that could lead back into them becoming more of the electronics based company we used to love, and lead to carrying individual useful components. With Obama's recent speech about America being a nation of makers or whatever, I can see it extending over here to the UK, and they'd be a good place for that to start.