I was there, but my memory has gaps
Hmmms......"only did mail order". from the days of the first badly drawn Concorde catalogue(76/77). If you were brave enough to venture to Southend, nearby was Westcliff-on-sea where there was a stupendously large (not, hence frequent delays) warehouse/headquarters. There was a counter where you could bowl up and buy stuff ( if it was in stock). So it wasn`t mail order only, but not worth a special trip unless local.
Their first retail outlet as i remember was in King Street Hammersmith circa 1980, The rot set in around 1990, I went in for a standard 15-0-15 miniatrure transformer and was told they could order it. I said something about a distant queue and that I was going to Edgware Road.
I stopped using Maplin almost completely when Ambit opened up (81?) and you could buy things that previously were impossible and RS and Farnell didn`t d,.It was as if one of us had opened a mail order catering to all our needs: RF, hifi computing.....they were the first people that stocked micropolis hard drives that mere humans could buy. ( and they were 20 minutes away from my mum`s and had a counter)
The "trade" cartels were rife. as stated elsewhere RS and Farnell were "trade only" if you wanted specific bits for audio you could only order them if you were a "dealer" Ambit blew that one up, stocking many common Japanese components that were otherwise several hundred percent mark up. Bulgin took over and screwed them as Cirkit after the demise of the inhouse R+EW mag.
RS woke up (83?) and produced a hobbyist catalogue called electrospeed (IIRC) but it was pricey for common things. I have it in the loft somewhere so could check the date, but CBA ( can`t be arsed).
Maplins were not originally very expensive because there was a shedload of competition some of which also had retail premises in Edgware Road.
Avert your eyes young persons, nostalgia follows.
I was very young, (not far from being the best remnant of what went down the milkmans leg) when it was my first time, with a similarly geeky mate we bunked off school and went to London and Tottenham Court Road and Edgware Road.
It was a one off, but the lure remained. these bad ways led to a proper electronics degree from QMC but that was when the habit was formed.
Wednesday afternoons were free, so a geek armada would go to Tottenham Court Road, and to Proops for ex equipment god knows , odd things with servomotors and pulleys, keyboards that had a latched key that lit up armed with one bulb and and fire with the other,YEAH! and Z+I aero for valves for grannies telly that she will not forsake for some "modern piece of Crap".
Going for a beer at the angel ( now Sam Smiths) got rid of most of the geeks then, it currently is an IT meeting place, ironic.
On to Edgware Road, home of the radio shack ( now long gone) which is why it was Tandy in this country, they lost the court battle. The only one left is Henry`s radio.
From exiting the underpass on the west side every shop was an electronics shop, but HL Smiths was something else, it was like a Victorian ironmongers, wooden boxes and shelves, they produced boxes and chassis to order, many of the ETI and Practical Electronics project boxes. No-one will forget the old chap in the Arther Daley coat come winter or summer who was a valve TV guru. He had a very old fashioned name (Isaac? not right but near) and celebrated his 100th Birthday somewhere near 2010. According to the chap in Henry`s anyway.
Components from Smiths came wrapped in a brown paper bag like nuts and bolts.
I am struggling, 10 years ago I could have listed all the component shops that have now gone
No visit was complete without the 1950`s milk parlour/ ice cream parlour, now finally gone but it was home made ice cream and lovely.
Oh And the magazines were summed up in a spoof 30 years ago: Wireless world : 10 part series on resistor colour codes including pigment and paint production and quality assurance ETI: Sound to light unit part 2: Correction TH3, 4, 5, 6 should be an xxxx not an XXXXX for UK line voltages. Elektor "building a particle collider at home"
Getting back in my rocking chair now.