The Friday interview: Maurice Muldoon, Cantec

23 Nov 2007

Independent IT retail chain Cantec is rebranding itself as Click and is investing in a €3.5m expansion that will result in 100 jobs. Maurice Muldoon (pictured) is the company’s managing director.

Cantec is one of the country’s oldest computer dealers. Why the rebrand?
The company as a brand is about 40 years old but we’ve been retailers for about 10 years since we opened our first store in Navan. The company was founded by ex-employees of Canon looking at going out on their own.

The Cantec name is very much business-to-business oriented and we wanted to bring a more retail-oriented look to the company. The new look has been well received and around 10 shopping centres nationwide have asked us if we’re interested in moving in.

How do you differentiate from other electronics retailers like 3G or Dixons?
Our market is very much around laptops, PCs and accessories like MP3 players and digital cameras. But if you walk into a mobile phone store you would get the service that goes with that. We specialise in laptops and digital cameras and the services that go with them.

What’s driving the market for computers in Ireland today?
Booking airline tickets online, buying CDs, buying concert tickets. More and more people require internet access. The kids of today are driving that particular market and they’re driving their parents mad. Once Johnny down the road has internet access…

Do you think Ireland is adequately served with broadband?
The whole issue in relation to broadband is a joke. If it were more accessible you would have a better penetration of computers than we currently have. Why would you buy a laptop today if all you can get access to in some areas is dial-up? You wouldn’t bother.

We now live in an era of wireless broadband in the home. People will use computers while sitting in front of the telly.
In the past 24 months there has been a huge uptake of it but there are areas that aren’t being served.

Telecoms companies are only interested in the big towns, that’s why the Government should get involved and lead on this. Northern Ireland has 100pc coverage for the past three years, it’s very different for the Republic and that’s a shame.

How do regional players like Click compete against big chains like PC World and Dixons?
It’s all about knowledge. People have to have confidence in the people they are buying equipment from.

Most of our staff members are between 18 and 24 years of age. Before we’d employ them they’d have to own a laptop and understand MP3 players and digital cameras. If they don’t, we won’t employ them.

We’ll be reorganising our online store shortly but the reality is that less than 9pc of computer buyers in Ireland actually buy online. We’ll open four or five new stores between now and 2010.

As Christmas nears, what do you think will be the big sellers?
All-in-one camera and photo printer bundles will be big this Christmas. Another big seller this year will be sat-nav devices that are relevant to the local market and have Irish mapping.

The problem is big companies come in and sell devices that only have large Irish towns. We use our engineers as guinea pigs to field test the products and make sure they cover more than just large towns. I wouldn’t sell something that I wouldn’t buy myself.

By John Kennedy

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