Maplin is to aggressively expand its online arm and push its fledgling travel format into railway stations.
The move comes as private equity firm Rutland Partners is poised to buy the electronics retailer as early as next week, Retail Week understands.
The retailer will boost its SKU count from 30,000 to 100,000 online as it vies to become “a master” of its core categories, which include CCTV, computer kits and home networking.
Maplin chief executive John Cleland said: “Maplin was a specialist retailer across a wide variety of areas – almost a jack of all trades and a master of none. Now we’re becoming a master of many.”
Cleland said the online drive was part of the retailer’s ambition to become an omnichannel business. Maplin has already introduced online ordering areas in-store and opened an office in London’s technology hive Old Street this week to attract both technology specialists and buyers into the business.
Maplin also intends to add further travel formats to its portfolio, including shops in rail stations, following the success of its first airport store in Glasgow. Cleland said the branch, which opened in February, has benefited from impulse buys.
He said: “There are four or five airports in the UK that we could put it into. We also see the potential to move it into a few of the higher volume railway hubs.”
He added that Maplin also sees potential in selling products in-flight, including phone chargers.
It is poised to add another format after signing its first trade-focused store in Hillsborough, Sheffield, which Cleland said was “Maplin’s version of Screwfix”.
Rutland Partners’ acquisition of Maplin is expected to value the retailer at around £80m, far below the £244m owner Montagu paid for it in 2004.
Cleland declined to comment on the potential sale but when questioned about the mooted price tag said it would reflect the fact it had only been in growth for 18 months after the business completed its turnaround. Conditions had changed dramatically since Montagu bought the business, he observed.
He said: “2004 to 2005 was a crazy market. What businesses are being sold for 12 times EBITDA now?”
Maplin’s imminent sale follows a period of strong trading. Like-for-likes surged 8.5% in the calendar year to date and in a rolling 12-month period it delivered its first year of EBITDA growth since 2008.