Saturday, 16 August 2014

How Do They Do It? - Or, why I cant buy local

I like to support local, and UK business, as much as the next fella. But, when it comes to electronic parts these days, unless its something very specialist, or I need it instantly, I can rarely justify it.

Take, for example, a recent need for 9-way D-type connectors and shells. To buy a pair of connectors and a pair of shells at the local Maplin store (ok, yes, I know they are dearer than the likes of Bitsbox and Bowood) would have cost me nearly a tenner. For around the cost of just one of the connectors, I instead have purchased 10x female, 10x male, and 10x shells, from the far east.

I just dont understand how they do it! All these are free shipping as well. Likewise, my stock of 2N3904 transistors is running low. A quid has bought me 100 of them from China. Even not allowing for the percentage of that that must be the shipping, thats a penny a throw. Same with opto's, a hundred mixed red, yellow, green, 3mm and 5mm LEDs from the far east - £1.10.

The same seller has an offer of 10x red laser diode modules for a tad over a quid! Packs of mixed size/colour heat shrink tubing for a couple of quid, a few hundred mixed value ceramic caps, or electrolytic caps, for a couple of quid. Its really quite easy to stock up on the basics for next to nothing from China, leaving you cash free to buy the more specialist parts locally.

Some detractors will say 'oh, but the parts are likely to be Chinese knock-offs!', maybe, for high value parts, but these are low value, mass produced, OEM components, and are, whether  you buy them direct or from a UK stockist, all made in the same Chinese factories anyway!

For such low value, high volume parts, it isnt cost effective for me to buy locally. I will still support UK companies for the higher value or more specialised bits, particularly G-QRP club sales, who have bits I can't easily find elsewhere, and are in fact almost as competitive on the small parts they stock as the Asians!

One part I cannot source form the far east, and will have to get from a UK seller, are the inductors for Daz's Theremin! Unfortunately, they are only stocked by Farnell Element 14, not exactly the lowest cost merchant!

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