The decline of Tottenham Court Road, former electronics capital of London

For decades, Tottenham Court Road in central London was the place to go for any kind of electronics, and I’ve spent many an hour stomping up and down the street trying to hustle the best possible price out of rival shops along the street.

In recent years, rising rents and the growing impact of Internet shopping have seen a huge reduction in the number of electronics shops along Tottenham Court Road.

Many of the old electronics shops have now been taken over by coffee shops or more mainstream High St stores, while some have remained empty for months on end.

A lost paradise for hagglers

It was one of last vestiges of a main shopping street where you could still go in and haggle like a pro.

I used to go in to the shop and say, “I’m buying [this gadget]. I have cash. I’m going to walk up and down this street for a hour and give my money to the shop that offers me the best price today. So what is your best possible price?”

I got some hefty discounts from that approach!

Although the majority of electronics stores have now disappeared, there’s still some to be found along the street, so it’s still worth visiting if you’re after some new electronics gear.

Be prepared to hustle too – with a bit of persistence you can sometimes get bargains every bit as good as the internet and you won’t have to wait around for it to be delivered!


18 Comments on “The decline of Tottenham Court Road, former electronics capital of London”

  1. I really hope this is a symptom of the recession rather than a terminal decline. Obviously internet shopping will have had an impact, but there is still a need for places to go and buy things ‘there and then’, and get advice and compare deals.

    Hopefully TCR has a future…….

  2. I hear what you are saying, Friedemann, but those shop owners are pretty savvy. They wouldn’t sell anything that wasn’t making them a profit.

  3. That row of shops with the roller shutters down are part of the InMidtown business improvement district (BID) . This part of the street was included in the BID from April 2010. Not much of an improvement. Now the rest of Tottenham Court Road has been colonised by another BID led by The Fitzrovia Partnership

  4. can’t say i’m surprised. Worked by TCR for years, i was always surprised at how these guys would make up specs, and take advantage of the not-so-tech-savvy. selling electronics is far better suited to the internet. More savings for you, less overheads for the vendor. WIN WIN.

  5. The internet delivers the best deals now and “the high street” has to adapt just like any other commercial sphere. Companies like John Lewis understand this, so they make their shops more of an experience and then encourage the consumer to buy online. If people loved TCR so much they would be happy to pay higher prices and make longer journeys. They don’t love it that much, so now it is changing. QED. Maybe some other area of London will pick up the concept? Besides, should we lament the passing of these meccas for disposable, excessive consumerism? Buying the latest gadget while discarding a decent functioning predecessor is not a sustainable way to live or a good example to set for emerging economies.

  6. Back in the 90’s I used to walk up Tottenham Court Road every other day during my breaks while working in Soho and I tell you it was an eye opener on how competing traders worked.

  7. Military electronic surplus shops and the likes of Laskys and GW Smith were wonderous places only Edgeware Rd and Henrys was better. There are no more bargains to be had! Computer Fairs flew the flag for some years but alas are no more! What a shame! It’s too sterile and has been for years

  8. I remember back in the late 70’s & 80’s both my dad & I would walk up & down the various Hi Fi Stores there looking at the various latest kit they had, (wish I could get some of them now!) he purchased a Aiwa tape deck 6900 (remember those ?) on one occasion, he had it for years, and made great sound through is Mordaunt Short Speakers – happy days!

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