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In The Spotlight - musicMagpie

At Manchester Digital we like to interview our members to find out a bit more about what they do and their work in the Greater Manchester digital and technology sphere. This week we're speaking with Steve Oliver, Group CEO and Co-Founder of musicMagpie.

What does your organisation do?

musicMagpie is the smart, fast and easy way to both sell and buy refurbished consumer tech and physical media. Having started as a buyer of CDs, DVD and Games from co-Founder Steve’s garage in Stockport in 2007, the company has now become the UK’s biggest mobile phone recycler and now turns over £150m per annum. 25% of its turnover is also now generated by its US subsidiary, branded Decluttr, operating out of Atlanta, Georgia.

When selling to us, you get a fixed valuation for your unwanted items; we provide free logistics, and we pay for them on the day that your items arrive with us. When buying from us, you are buying high quality refurbished, branded items in as-good-as-new condition for a fraction of the price. All our refurbished consumer tech items come with a 12-month warranty and are offered on next day delivery.

What do you think is currently the biggest issue facing the tech industry?

It won't be a surprise to anyone, but I would say finding talent is the biggest challenge we and the rest of the tech industry face. Good talent is the main driver of execution and innovation, but also absolutely crucial in building your culture. Our culture and team of Magpies are critical to what we’re trying to achieve and finding, as well as retaining the right people is difficult due to fierce competition in the North West. 

What is your organisation’s biggest achievement?

There have been several key pivots in the history of the business, but I think it has been the agility and flexibility of the business model which represents the biggest achievement. The business started as one that just bought CDs, DVDs and Games, which  were then resold on Amazon and eBay (where we became the world’s biggest seller in the history of both of these platforms – a decent enough achievement in itself!) However, the business has now pivoted to one that does well over half its turnover in a completely different category (consumer tech) and does over 85% of its turnover in that category on its own online musicMagpie store! It has also pivoted in territory with the growth of the Decluttr brand in the US, which is another proud achievement…

What would you consider to be your organisation’s biggest challenge?

We are blessed as a business to have a number of significant opportunities and our biggest challenge is to work out which ones to pursue first to ensure that we don’t spread ourselves too thinly. We have been guilty in the past of trying to do too much all at the same time and not executing our plans effectively and efficiently, so we constantly evaluate the rewards and returns of everything we do to ensure we are making sensible business decisions. 2020 has been a fantastically exciting year for new projects and has seen the launch of our corporate buying scheme, our brand new ‘Rent-a-Phone’ model and our SMARTdrop mobile phone buying kiosk. 2021 is likely to be even more exciting but we must ensure that we don’t leave things behind in our pursuit of shiny, new things!

What do you think the future looks like for Manchester’s tech sector?

I think the future looks incredibly bright for Manchester’s Tech sector. You only need to look at the success of local unicorn’s like AO, THG, Boohoo, AutoTrader to see we have everything we need as a city to succeed. There are many more on their way to following in their footsteps, including musicMagpie. At the other end of the scale we have an incredibly vibrant start-up culture too. What also strikes me about the Manchester Tech scene and stands us in good stead for the future is how willing people are to help each other and share knowledge, there really is a sense of community that is lacking elsewhere. Throw in the two big universities and the city and region itself being an ever increasingly attractive place to live and that should continue to help plug the talent gap. 

Tell us something that we might not know about your company?

The US business was originally called in the US but soon found out that the US doesn’t have Magpies, and no-one knew what the word Magpie even meant (they have Blujays not Magpies). We soon discovered our mistake when our original head of Customer Services asked after three months what a Magpie was and when she had the cartoon Magpie on the website pointed out to her and was asked “what do think that is?” she confidently responded, “That’s a Penguin!”  

Thank you Steve!

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