Crumbs. Doesn't time fly? It seems like only yesterday when CeX opened its doors for the first time. From little nippers to the oldest kids in the classroom, the founders still run the show, keeping it fiercely independent, passionately uncorporate, yet always professional. Well, we don't really run the show, we just pretend to; our custies who shop with us and now work with us run the show. Our testers, sales assistants, supervisors and management run this very special show in a very special way.
Humour us, please, while we take a misty-eyed meander down memory lane. Don't worry... we'll spare you the photo album.
A long, long time ago (well, 1992, to be exact) we had three grand in our back pocket and a firm belief that there was a huge second hand market for computers, gadgets and video games and a realisation that people wanted to know more about what they buy, in ever-increasing complex gadgets and silicon, and ever-increasing catalogues of games and digital media.
We would make it possible for people to afford even the most exotic kit by trading in their old, unwanted computing stuff, games, and gadgets, where people could pick up second hand oldies-but-still-goodies at knock down prices.
At the same time we would be a retailer that wasn't guilty of destroying our environment by always selling new shiny stuff when cheaper second hand stuff, fully tested and backed by a full one year warranty and served by knowledgeable staff would do. We also didn't want to be a retailer that colluded with software houses and hardware manufacturers to flog what they can't shift. We would sell everything at the market price, if something doesn't sell, we reduce the price and if it sells too well, we increase the price. Simple market economics.
The first CeX, then known as the easy off the tongue 'Tottenham Court Road Computer Exchange', was a small shop, opened at the top of Whitfield Street. Tucked behind the top end of Tottenham Court Road - London's electronics and computer heartland - CeX's mix of cheap second hand games, hard to find Japanese and US imports and computer bits and bobs, soon found a fanatically loyal band of customers - dubbed custies by staff. Many of these custies have since joined the company as it has expanded.
With our first year's sales reaching £ 1 million, it became clear that we'd need to open a new store to keep up with demand. Our Rathbone Place shop opened in 1993. Built on the site of the old Pilot Software shop - a location well known to London-based gamers since the late 70's, and arguably the world's oldest computer game store, Rathbone concentrated on the gaming machines of the moment (Sega MegaDrive and Nintendo SNES and Game Boy), leaving the Whitfield Street branch to focus on the computing side of the geek within.
1995 saw a new flag ship Computing store slap-bang in the middle of Tottenham Court Road.
In 1997 we opened our Birmingham branch, the first outside of London and the South East.
Late 1998 also saw the company open new stores in Watford, Hounslow, W. London, Bromley, S.E. London, Kingston-upon-Thames, Surrey and our new flagship store in Leeds.
We also upgraded our website, the world's first website allowing custies to buy and sell from it. Want to sell us something, we're up-front about how much you'll get, so no slow auction process that doesn't reach the amount you were looking for. No payment problems with strangers. At webuy.com it's all done in a timely, friendly and professional manner.
Which pretty much brings us up to now. A target of 200 global stores has been smashed. Loads of them with partner Franchisees, who we love and work fantastically with. We've now introduced Charity Donations as an alternative to Cash and Exchange, if you're too posh to push. We've also learnt Spanish, Catalan and dialects of American. Now showing in Swansea, Dublin, Oporto, Hyderabad, Amsterdam and even Sydney.
With new product lines, we started trading CDs just when everyone else was giving up, fill up your iPod for less at CeX, sell us your collection if you've gone all digital, we'll find a home for them. We're excited about home cinema also, upgrading to a 60" stonker? Sell that little 37" tiddler to us, we'll find a loving home from someone who can't handle one as big as yours.
We believe franchising is the future, want to open up your own CeX Store anywhere in the world; we're interested in talking to you. We just ask you to take it on as a full time opportunity and that you have a passion for the stuff we buy and sell and for the people we sell to. All our franchises have made a significant operating profit in their first year of trading, a boast few other franchise businesses can make.
Just think, if we were a kid, we'd almost be old enough to start college. Except we're CeX, so we'd probably be skulking around the back of the bike sheds instead, playing Jet Set Willy on our hacked iPhones and rein acting Bully for real. But Sir, it's only a game! And then having the write 1000 lines in detention 'I am not Jesus nor am I a Cylon'.
But honestly, folks, it's been a blast. We've got the greatest job in the world and we'd like to thank each and every one of our custies for making it possible for us to spend all day surrounded by the stuff we love. Cheers, all.
And hold on tight - we've plenty of neat-o ideas for the future and hope you enjoy the ride.
David Butler, David Mullins