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.
Started by Me (Drinking Buddy), Paul Farrington (Gig Buddy), Hugh Man (Zen Buddy), Charlie Brooker (Cynical Student Type Buddy), Oli Smith (Genius Buddy) and Oliver Ball (The Consigliere).
A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away - well, 1992 in London to be exact, as we couldn't find Tatooine - we had three grand in our back pocket and a firm belief that there is a second hand market for computers, gadgets and video games. Increasing obsolescence was rapidly increasing the need to recycle.
We also thought that the staff at Rumbelows were crap - we, as custies, wanted to know what we were buying, in ever-increasing technical gadgets and silicon, and ever-increasing catalogues of games and movies.
We couldn't afford the most exotic kit or get rid of our old kit. What's a geek to do?
We wanted a retailer where one could pick up second hand oldies-but-still-goodies at knockdown prices. And we genuinely all cared about the environment - we're hippies, but dressed unhippyishly stupid as to not admit we like the Grateful Dead, Syd and Led Zeppelin which we know everyone secretly does.
We also didn't want a store stuffing rubbish in our faces, a retailer that colluded with software houses and hardware manufacturers to hard flog what they couldn'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 (Complete Entertainment Exchange), then known as the easy off the tongue 'Tottenham Court Road Computer Exchange' opened in a small shop 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 affectionately as custies. Many of these custies have since joined the company as it has blossomed.
It became clear that we'd need to open a new store to keep up with demand (and supply). Our Rathbone Place shop opened in 1993 taking over Pilot Software City, a place well known to London based Apple IIe and Atari 800 gamers. CeX took over and concentrated on console gaming - SNES, Neo, Megadrive, Engine and Game Boy, leaving the Whitfield Street branch to focus on the computing side of the geek within. Pilot and CeX has been selling games at this location continuously for over 30 years - the longest-running gaming location in the world? Let me know if you know differently, I'd love to find out.
1995 saw a new flagship Computing store slap-bang in the middle of Tottenham Court Road.
In 1997 we opened our Birmingham branch, the first outside of London.
Late 1998 also saw the company open a new store in Watford, Hounslow, Bromley, Kingston and a big-un in Leeds.
Then came WeBuy.com, the first website allowing custies to buy and sell. All sales come with a 12 month warranty like with our stores.
Want to sell us something? Search webuy.com for an instant quote. Want to know if a certain product is in stock at a certain store? Search webuy.com. WeBuy.com custies don't need to endeavour an auction process which is slow to complete and cannot guarantee a price. No payment problems with strangers either. We pay securely into your bank directly, or offer PayPal or even cheque - you choose. Selling a phone we'll even send you a stamped and addressed jiffy bag to pop it into and return back to us. At WeBuy.com its all done in a fast and friendly way.
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 your'e too posh to push. We've also learnt Spanish, Catalan and dialects of American. Now showing in Swansea, Dublin, Hyderabad and even Sydney.
With new product lines, we've started trading CDs just when eveyone else is 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 it a loving home with someone who can't handle one your size.
Just think, if CeX 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 re-enacting Bully for real. "But Sir, it's only a game!". And then having to 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.