Auctioning4u/Clockworx RIP

Yesterday, Clockworx, the company previously trading as Auctioning4u called in the administrators.  It is a sad end to the dream of building a nationwide chain of eBay drop shops.  It also, I feel, sounds the death knell for the idea that a large company can be built from franchaising drop shops.  The stand alone shop model does not work as shown by iSold-it problems and now the centralised model has also failed.

I don’t know how much I should really say about this, considering I used to work at Auctioning4u, but nobody else seems to be blogging about this and so I will try and be fair.  Auctioning4u was based around a centralised franchise model with sateillite shops taking items to a central processing facility for listing and fulfilment.  At its peak the company had around 7 locations around the UK and two warehouses in North Acton, London.

The centralised drop shop model was always going to be difficult to get right.  Margins are slim in processing items, and listing is labour intensive.  The franchise model involved a revenue split 70/30 between auctioning4u and the franchiser.  Neat solution though the centralised model was to the problem of running a chain of drop shops it did not provide a solution which appealed to potential franchisers.  The 70/30 split meant that they had to process large volumes and entrepreneurial franchisees did not like the idea of merely running a shop without doing any of the other tasks. 

Auctioning4u’s death has been a slow one.  Last year they gave up on the franchise model to concentrate on home collections, only to give up completely and sell the auctioning4u brand to Serial Sellers a few months later.  After that they concentrated on business sales and development of their software.  Having not secured further funding the company was forced to close for business yesterday (January 31st 2008).


  1. Marcin Szczepanek says:

    I have a question about your article and clocktronix company. I bought laptop computer from them. It was on 29 Jul 2008. I’ve made a payment a minute after. And I’m a bit worried now about whole transaction. Will I get this laptop?
    Marcin Szczepanek

  2. trevor says:

    Please note that I no longer work for Auctioning4u or Clockworx and cannot help with these matters. Any questions should be asked of Clockworx though their eBay ID.

  3. Lyner says:

    I’ve also bought a laptop from Clockworx recently on 30 Jan 2008, very poor communication as I still yet to receive any respond. Just hope they do have the product in stock and that it gets shipped soon. (No info regarding how long the delivery) >.>

  4. Marcin Szczepanek says:

    take a look what I have just found on their auctions:

    “R W Birchall and M D Gercke were appointed joint administrators of Clockworx Limited (also trading as Toyauctioneer) on 31 January 2008 to manage its affairs, business and property as agents and without personal liability. Both are licensed to act as insolvency practitioners by the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales.”

    Clocktronics started again to list new auction! So I hope that was just a temporarily problem.

  5. Steve says:

    I too have ordered something from them, on the 26th of Jan, no communications or anything from them, despite a few emails and some ebay messages 🙁

    I hope i either get my money back or the item

  6. Ansgar says:

    If you bought something form an eBay seller that just went bankrupt/into administration you might have a problem….
    Christian was saying they had big plans for new brands, etc. Any news on that ?
    I have a selfserve “Gumtree” store near Amsterdam NL, we’re pretty near breakeven.

  7. I agree that is it sad to see such Auctioning4U – such a highly visible leader in our space – in the hands of the administrators, and Christian has clearly nailed the issues of the industry on the head in his post elsewhere:-
    – the high touch service required for the customers who will pay
    – the vagaries of the VeRO program
    – the segmentation of consumer groups

    However, I would have to disagree that this sounds the death knell for the industry. One Northern Rock does not herald the end of banking. Nor The Titanic the end of shipping. There is a large number of people who would like help in accessing the UKs largest second-hand market; people who are prepared to share the sale value when they need space or money or want to renew, recycle or dispose of their valuable items.

    The demise of A4U – with a lot of money and many clever people on board (such as yourself) – shows that this is not an easy task. However, we believe that it is possible to run a viable business in this space.

    Our aim is to grow steadily and responsibly, focusing on excellent customer service for our sellers and buyers, whilst keeping a rigorous hold on our operation – both in cost and efficiency. We’ll look forward to your help!


  8. Anthony says:

    slightly confused about the follow up to this blog, Auction4U and Clockworx are these related to the Clocktronix Ebay power seller ?

  9. George says:

    has this company went bust why are they back selling items

  10. Marcin Szczepanek says:

    Can somebody tell me how this company can still list new auction on ebay? There are a lot of them!

  11. V Devitt says:

    Marcin hit the nail on the head with that question.

    If the company is in administration then why are they still adding new auction listings??? I watched them add quite a few yesterday evening. Surely the company should at least contact all the current bidders to explain the situation, instead of taking their money??

    I have also been watching the negative feedback slowly building up, with a few people saying no communication or items were received.

    And the biggest question is why eBay and Paypal just sitting there on their backsides and not even blinking an eye. I am sure that by now quite a few people have reported this trader already. So why doesn’t anyone either clarify the situation or actually take action to cancel these auctions???

    Is it because eBay and Paypal fees are more important than anything else??

  12. Matt Garcia says:

    Well said David Brackin.

    This industry is still relatively ground-floor in the UK and I am confident with a combined focus on delivering consistent excellent customer experience through slick, bullet-proof operation, players such a StuffUSell, AuctionPeople et al can learn from the unfortunate experience of the pioneering A4U, and establish a stable model for success.

  13. Anthony says:

    I have raised my concerns and my disatisfaction with eBay regarding this seller.
    I have also lodged a complaint stating similar reason with paypal.

    Whether or not the industry being in it’s Infancy isn’t quite the question, this seller is acting against the whole nature of eBay and should be curtailed.

    I think it’s pretty shoddy of ebay that it doesn’t police against this, although saying that they were pretty quick to reply when I informed them of misuse of an ebay account, ie invalid contact details.

    I find it annoying to have been ripped off by someone who is hiding his dodgy activities behind the relative safety of a massive positive feedback score.

    It’s just not quite cricket, is it?

  14. I agree with a few of today’s comments, it is sad to see A4u fall into administration and does highlight that this ‘online trading assistant industry’ is low margin.

    However, having personally founded Trading4u which offers similar services to A4u, as well as providing a Transportation service and assisting our clients to Import and Export, I strongly believe there is profit to retain within this industry.

    Running a low margin business means you have to be more vigilant with costs compared with a conventional business model, and obviously turnover has to be high. That’s why at Trading4u we don’t sell individual items worth less than £50 and we’re looking to increase this.

    Trading4u initially started selling products on behalf of clients both business and consumer and has proved profitable, and with processes and systems in place this allowed T4u to also operate into the transportation and import/export sectors. With these two divisions growing T4u, not only are these separately profitable but more important, increasing our overall margins across the business so we’re able to consolidate overhead budgets to promote our entire business.

    Finally, looking at the global economy I feel this industry will see more challenges in 2008-09. Some will and some won’t be beneficial, lets just hope our current challenges such as the VeRO programme simply becomes fair.

    I wish Christian and the team all the best for the future.

  15. Martin Brady says:

    I have found the tel number for Clockworx – 0208 8969737

  16. Lyner says:


    After sending four emails to Clocktronix and waited for 8 days I finally received a reply saying they have sent the item out.

    The courier is City Link and it should arrive by tomorrow.

    Finally some relief.

  17. Steve says:

    well i posted a fair few emails, finally got confirmation that the item would be shipped via city link… the item did arrive, but its broken 🙁 no reply regarding getting a refund…

  18. Marcin Szczepanek says:

    I also got email that my item is waiting for paskong and then will be posted. It was 2 days ago, and no massage after that. Hope it comes soon.

  19. George says:

    i recieved an email from someone called agata today from the company saying that my item is ready for shipment.

    no holding my breath

  20. R Kelly says:

    Hi I bought an ipod took 11 days to arrive and was faulty and not in the pristine condition as advertised. Needs to be returned but no return address supplied can anyone help with this. Many thanks
    R Kelly

  21. Antony Miller says:

    I’ve bought 4 items (totalling over £1000 ) in last week from them nothing yet but ill post on here if i receive anything next week, might be a paypal claim i think.

    why havent ebay stopped them trading if they have gone into admin .. ?

    surely they still have to honour all sales..

    fingers crossed hay

  22. George says:

    Guess what i got my blackberry today and i works

  23. Jason says:

    Hi all, does anyone know the address of the warehouses in London and North Acton? I have a sofa to collect which i have paid for days ago but no reply to any emails. Any help??

  24. Patrik says:

    Hi, I went to the warehouse in North Acton yesterday.. after 10 days without receive any emails or call about my laptop bought on eBay, guess what… the receptionist (Agata) said that my laptop had been relisted since I open a dispute on PayPal for not receiving the item.
    They did not even issue the refund as the guy in charge of PayPal was not there but it would be eventually issued in the afternoon, well not a refund or a call back from them.
    I decided to escalate the claim to PayPal’s staff hopefully to get the payment refunded as soon as possible.
    This is the address of the main warehouse 5-7 Park Royal road, Park Royal, North Acton, W3 6XA, 0208 896 3844.
    Consider the telephone contact useless as they will never call u back or answer the phone.
    My advice is if you got a chance pop in and try to sort the problem directly with someone there.
    Good luck people.

  25. Antony Miller says:

    It’s a long way for me to go to be told they cant do anything im going to give it a couple of days then i might go down if anyone else has anyluck going down there let us know.

    im keeping my eye on the feedback more and more negatives keep cropping up , but i have seen some positive from people who have bought since the admin’s came in.

    fingers crossed for everyone.

    good luck

  26. Kevin says:

    OK, lets really see if eBay and PayPal will help with the buyers who have been ripped off by this Company who were still selling when they are in administration. Very bad that eBay have let any Company still deal on their site after this problem. I could be very true that ebay and Paypal are only interested in their fees from Auctioning4u/Clockworx who have made a lot of sales. Will be intesting to see if any buyer is able to get their money back from PayPal.

  27. Radders says:

    So how do i put in a claim – via paypal?

  28. Anthony says:


    I originally had a problem contacting (still have actually) clocktronix/auction4u through any method and raised 2 complaints through paypal and ebay, both whom I have to say were quite efficient in their replies (and actions in the case of paypal). Just to update, I recieved MY monitor after 12/13 days and paypal refunded their monies on day 16. Paypal must have emailed them to inform them of refund but seeing how they don’t reply PAYPAL issued me a refund.

    I emailed them today with details of the refund and how they wish me to “refund” them. I aint holding my breath…

    In reply to the submitter who was asking about contacting them, I read somewhere else how someone had actually visited the warehouse in north london…if I come across again that, I will post here.

    good luck.

  29. Gareth says:

    Raddersgo your “my EBAY” won find the item not received on the right scroll down panel start to file a dipute with EBAY and they will link you to PAYPAL, just follow the easy steps and wait and wait and wait. Then give up.

  30. Gareth says:

    People there is hope, my item from their sister site just turned up after 3.5 weeks but it is here so they are still trying yipee.

  31. Gary says:

    I also used to work for Auctioning4u, however it was for only a shot period as I realised very shortly in my employment that I had just hopped onto a sinking ship, and things were not going to last long – Unless they had some serious funding, or listing on eBay became so hard that the everyday ‘Jo-Blogs’ cannot do it for them self.

  32. I see the death of A4U be a victim of the squeezed profit margin in online selling. The gross margin out of product cost just could not afford too many layer of stakeholders be involved. Operating out of insufficient profit, A4U collapsed from imcompetent customer service and then shrinking franchisee development.

    On thin margin a business typically needs to go on large volume. However if a franchisee grows to have large volume business they no longer need a franchisor. This is an intrinsic dead loop to consider when one wants to grow an online selling business through franchising.

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