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Comet dying due to Deloitte’s doomsday deal?

When a company enters administration, one of the first things they do is blow out any remaining stock to get cash in – so that the business can be kept alive while a rescue plan is put in place. Comet seems to be going with a different strategy. KitGuru drives down to a Comet store to see, first hand, just how badly things can be run.

Once the darling of the high street electronics stores, Comet suffered from not being quite big enough to cope with rapid changes in the competitive landscape.

While its online store is pretty good, it was up against huge challenges from Amazon, eBuyer and others. At the same time, it was carrying a huge burden on rent with another big bill for the staff needed to run those stores.

In the end, it was all too much and the company is presently teetering on the edge of the abyss.

Having heard rumours that Comet has just pushed a BIG spend into advertising price cuts, while actually appearing to put prices up, we decided to pay a visit to our local super store to see what gives. Our preferred product was a simple drinks cooler – the kind of glass fronted fridge you find in modern bars.

Here’s our experience.

The staff were friendly and we soon latched onto a cheerful chatty chap from the provinces. We’d scanned the pricing on regular fridges and were struggling to see anything under £150, and certainly no bargains on the drinks cooler we had in mind. We asked “What gives with the product pricing?”.

“Well, that’s Deloitte for you”, he said. “We’ve been told that lots of the stock we had does not even belong to Comet. It was bought on consignment, which means that the manufacturers still own it and they want it back”.

That explains the empty shelves. What about the seemingly high prices?

“We’ve been told not to show any discounts – and to only move down 10% if we’re pushed by a customer who wants to buy immediately”, said Comet man. We asked about the stuff on show seeming to be expensive and were told, “Yes, you’re right. The real bargains had gone and we now seem to have just the expensive items”.

Neville Kahn from Deloitte says that Comet is experiencing “Record sales”, but we saw no evidence of this during our visit. Just a lot of disappointed vultures, walking around the same carcass, wondering why there was no juicy meat on offer.

Comet man finished by saying that “We expect there to be some big discounts in the next few days, to try and clean out the store, but everyone thinks we’re going to be sacked because there’s absolutely no way we will be ready for Christmas”.

We asked what he meant and he told us that in order to capitalise on the big push from November to January, Comet stores would normally be packed to bursting with product – so that customers could achieve instant satisfaction. He said that if a product was not sitting on the shelf, at the right price, when they walked in the door – then they would simply go to Currys.

Not sure if Deloitte would deliberately lie about sales success, but it does seem that the administrator’s present strategy is to ‘close Comet completely’ – with no hope of salvation, well before Santa comes looking for his domestic goodies. Currys and Amazon must be celebrating and looking forward to a big Q4 boost.

But with Currys, Amazon and the big supermarkets waiting to take up any slack, you now have to ask yourself "How much do I really need that 'hardly special' offer from Currys?"

KitGuru says: The Husky cooler we wanted was almost £190 in Comet with no discount available, but 10% less in Currys next door. Also, Currys had sourced the same cooler under its own brand ‘Logik’ and was selling it for just £99. We bought one and paused for a moment’s silence to mourn the passing of a retail giant and the job losses that seem inevitable following Deloitte’s spell in charge.

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