Re: 90s ???
How can you compare '70s Maplin to Tandy?
Maplin actually sold the components you wanted, and also put together the kits of parts from the ETI projects to save you having to order them seperately yourself. And the catalogue was as good as a reference book when it came to the pin-outs for transistors and that 74LS105 and 4114 static memory that you were soldering on to the project you were making out of Vero-board.
If you went in to Tandy, all that you came out with was a realization that they were not really an electronics store. You only used Tandy when they had the week long cumulative 10% discount per day sales that they needed to have in order to clear the stuff they could not sell full price, or you were so desperate for a component that you would risk disappointment because they did not have what you needed.
And for the people who mention Radio Spares and Farnell, at that time you had to have a trade account before they would even send you a catalogue, let alone sell something to you! For the hobbiest, Watford Electronics were the only real mail-order alternative, although they did run from a shop on Watford High Street which was a real blast to visit because of all the miscellaneous useful junk they had there.
Unfortunately, Maplin today are a shadow of what they used to be. If you want specific components (last time I wanted a set of capacitors to repair the power supply in an out-of-warranty Sky HD box - yes a Thompson one) they did not have all of the values I needed, so I had to go somewhere else. All they appear to have now are the component grab-bags, a small number of kits, many dating back to the ETI days, some tools and various gadgets you can buy cheaper elsewhere.