I was sad to see that Micro Anvika has gone into administration
They have been around on Tottenham Court Road, with up to three or four stores there, since the 1980s. If you’re looking for a bargain laptop, or other computer goodies, it might be worth rushing off there as they were selling stuff off at up to 50% off until at least last Tuesday (6th November).
I always found Micro Anvika trustworthy and knowledgeable – unlike a lot of “box shifters” on Geek Alley, who seem to know very little about what they are selling but will say anything they think the potential customer wants to hear.
Apparently, Micro Anvika’s administrators are hoping to sell off the stores as a going concern but, even if they succeed, what’s the betting that the reincarnation is staffed by the same calibre of personnel that you get in PC World. It’s not too hard to see the problem, though. Computers and their bits and pieces are complicated and ever-changing. It must be very difficult to get good quality, technically-minded staff if you only pay them normal retail staff rates. I never minded paying Micro Anvika the full retail price for the goods they sold me as I valued the technical help they provided and never had any problem if I had to return anything.
I predict that something else may change soon about buying computer stuff in the Tottenham Court Road area. The weekly computer fair on a Saturday (currently in the Student Union of London University on Malet Street) seems to be on its last legs. A few years ago there were two different organisations offering competing fairs in three or four locations between Jury’s Hotel at the New Oxford Street end of Tottenham Court Road and (unless I’m making this up) the place where Spearmint Rhino is now located (up near Warren Street tube). This has now been whittled down to just one venue and it seems to be getting smaller and less well attended every time I go there. I realise it’s not the kind of place that a “normal” shopper would go, but many of my computer clients have benefited in the past from my picking up stuff for them cheaply at these fairs.
Maybe this is just a sign of increasing maturity of the computer industry. Nerdy people used to buy all kinds of add-ons and bells and whistles from these fairs that were either unavailable elsewhere or that were twice the price in places like Maplins and PC World. These days, all computers come with all the bells and whistles you could want. It’s not very often these days that I need to crawl under a client’s desk to take the cover off a desktop computer (and it’s even rarer on laptops). The only hardware upgrade I ever seem to undertake for clients these days is to increase the memory – and that can easily be bought online. The major retailers, such as PC World, have now also become much more competitively priced for some things (eg external drives and USB drives), so perhaps the normal shops are pricing the computer fairs out of the market. Mind you, it would be really painful paying Maplins or PC World prices for things such as cables. A standard USB cable, for instance, can cost under a pound in the computer fair but £8-£10 in a shop.
There is, of course, a completely and utterly different kind of “shopping experience” that you can have if you want some retail therapy of the computer kind in London – and that’s to go to the Apple Store in Regent Street. I went in there on Sunday to have a look at the iPad mini (it’s great) and, as always, was bowled over by the simplicity, the professionalism, the buzz, the style – everything about the place. Most of my computer clients will already know that I’m not Apple’s biggest fan when it comes to laptops and desktops, but I love their iPhones and iPads and it’s very very difficult to argue with the excitement and the aura that Apple create around their products (as long as you’ve got deep pockets, of course).
Comparing the “experience” of a computer fair with that of the Apple store, it’s not hard to see why all the money and the future seems to be with Apple. It’s a shame, though, that there doesn’t seem to be room any more for someone in the middle – someone such as Micro Anvika.