Many people in Ripoff Britain today rely on shops such as Argos and PC World when it comes to buying their Computer Accessories, with many of those people waiting for a Bank Holiday to arrive before buying a new printer for example. And good luck to them - Why not wait for Bank Holiday bargain prices? After all, it beats paying the normal retail prices.

But hold on! I put a question mark on "Why not wait for Bank Holiday bargain prices?". So what am I questioning? The prices or the waiting?.....Well both actually! These days you do not have to wait for prices to drop, on a bank holiday or otherwise, before getting a bargain.....if you know of a Computer Fair in your area.

A Computer Fair is a place (usually a hall/room in a church, hotel, school or community hall) that is rented out to Traders who come from all over the place. In London for example they might come from as far away as Acton and Croydon or as near as Islington and Camberwell. Either way, this is not your concern. For you they are under the one roof for one day only, normally a Saturday or Sunday.

Each Saturday (or Sunday) the traders set up their stall(s) in order for you to save a small fortune and for them to make a small profit. In the middle of the week many traders work in their shops but do not get the kind of customer base they get at the computer fair, hence one reason why they can offer big discounts - They order in bulk knowing that they can sell it to the hundreds, if not thousands, of customers that will attend the computer fair throughout the day. Another reason is because they have low running costs - They are not paying a shop ground rent, only a stall day-rent.

Computer Fair Explained

Fig 1.0 - Nearest Stall - Printers, Speakers, Mice, Hard Drives, Network Adaptors, WebCams and so on.

So what kind of things are sold at a computer fair? Well depending on the computer fair itself, normally everything to do with computers and other gadgetry as well. For example: One stall might sell a mixture of goods like in Fig 1.0 above whereas another stall might specifically sell one kind of item like in Fig 1.1 below.

Computer Fair Explained

Fig 1.1 - Nearest Stall - Blank CDs, Blank DVDs, CD/DVD Sleeves and CD/DVD Marker Pens.

The nearest stall (Fig 1.1 above) sells CD/DVD gear while the stall next to it sells Printer Ink Cartridges (original and compatible) and Photo Paper. Original printer ink cartridges are those made by the printer manufacturer and sold in shops such as Argos and PC World. Compatible printer ink cartridges on the other hand are, normally, made by third party manufacturers and tend to be bought/used for cheap printing purposes. For example: If I buy an original black ink for my Canon PIXMA MP499 printer, in a shop, I can pay from £10 up to £16 for it whereas a compatible black ink will normally be half that price. In a computer fair it will normally be a quarter of the original price (i.e from £2.50) and sometimes a fifth of the price (i.e from £2).

A Compatible Black printer ink cartridge tends not to be as dark (jet black) as an Original Black printer ink cartridge. It tends to be more of a charcoal black or very dark brown, depending on the actual ink cartridge of course. Also, some compatible black printer ink cartridges are filled with dye as opposed to real/genuine ink. This applies to compatible Colour printer ink cartridges as well. With compatible colour printer ink cartridges RED tends to be red when printed whereas original colour printer ink cartridges should print the shade of red when printed (i.e Cardinal Red, Blood Red and so on). This applies to other colours too. Therefore, if you only use your printer for quick printouts (i.e a quick printout of a web page) I would suggest buying/trying compatible ink cartridges and only use your original ink cartridges for Photographs and Important Documents for example. Ink Cartridges can easily be swapped over these days.

Computer Fair Explained

Fig 1.2 - An array of gadgetry at bargain prices

It pays to shop around, even in the computer fair! Although two stalls might be selling the same Flash Drive for example they will almost certainly be selling it at a different price. The price difference might only be £1 but compared to the normal shop price it might be a difference of between £5 and £10.

It also pays to look, and test if possible, before you buy. Always ask the owner of the stall for a test of the product. A good, honest, trader will always allow you to test the product either in the computer fair or as a "bring-it-back-if-it-doesn't-work" receipt guarantee. If the trader does not do one of these for you scratch your head in disbelief! because the organiser of the computer fair should of made sure his/her traders are genuine, regular/weekly, friendly traders who look after their customer to a shop standard. It is not in the computer fair organiser's interest to have dishonest traders who can not be found the following week. In any case always ask for the trader's business card, if their full details are not on the receipt, and if necessary give their number a call in front of them to make sure their contact details are up-to-date.

Computer Fair Explained

Fig 1.3 - A stall for all your Software needs

Do not be tied down to just one computer fair. I recommend visiting two or three computer fairs so that you can weigh up prices, traders and the quality of the goods. In the long run, purely for convenience, you will more than likely use the same computer fair. Therefore, build up a good rapport with the traders and explain to them "I come here every week, I own a shop, We can do good business, What is your last price and so on". A good trader, who's heard it all before!, will play ball and give you a little discount. Remember: Every £1 counts.

Computer Fair Explained

Fig 1.4 - New and Second-Hand Laptop - All at bargain discounted prices

The above pictures were taken at the Tottenham Court Road (London's West-End) computer fair, now closed down, when the place had just opened at 10am. And this is the key thing to remember: Get to the computer fair very early so that you can browse the room at leisure with no overcrowding. In this case the mass of people normally went to the computer fair between 12pm and 4pm.


Unfortunately, to some degree, computer fairs are in decline these days. I say "to some degree" mainly because on the fortunate side the computer manufaturers and bigger computer shops have now realised people want quality hardware and software products and services at cheaper prices. Something the computer fairs were offering and giving for many years. With the bigger shops now selling cheaper it means there are more shops to go to, as opposed to one or two isolated computer fairs on a Saturday/Sunday, whereby special offers can be seen on a weekly (if not daily) basis.

With this age of cheaper products and services it means a student no longer, to some degree, has to buy a second-hand, worn-out, computer for example simply because now they have the choice of buying a cheaper computer or paying by installments. In other words, even the banking systems and government schemes are helping. On the plus side of the computer fair, I would say they still have a better range of 'unque/specialist/new' products such as inexpensive cables/adapters/converters you can not normally find in a shop.

You can look upon a computer fair like a 'street market' in that the street market also originally suffered from decline and in some cases closure due to the bigger supermarkets cutting prices. Some would argue Undercutting. However, just like the street market (and car boot sale for example) the computer fair may go into a decline and may even see a revival but at the end of the day it will still have an audience because it still sells what its audience is looking for. So it will become a niche market in other words.

Computer Fair   Address   Telephone   Opening Hours   Parking   Website  
Oasis Academy Ashburton Learning Village,
Shirley Road,
Croydon, CR9 7AL
07718 782828 USUALLY: EVERY SUNDAY  
10am - 3pm
YES Click Here  

The computer fair in Croydon, London (above) normally has around 20 traders spread across approximately 80 stalls (tables). For more information about the British Computer Fair check out the official website - Computer fairs in general tend to charge an Admission Fee, usually between £2.50 and £3. One thing to note here: This article (section) has concentrated on London, UK, but there are many computer fairs/Markets across the UK and Worldwide of course.