I think the 200 stores were both a blessing and a curse for Maplin. Yes, they had the cost of running hundreds of small stores and god knows how many warehouses, as opposed to the few large warehouses Amazon have, but they also had the advantage that for deliveries, they probably had a store within a few miles of most of their customers (thus bringing delivery costs down), and also for the customer, it was good to be able to pop into the local Maplin and pick up an item quickly. Something which saved my own particular arse on several occasions.
For instance, a few years ago, I was asked, on a Friday, to get some documentation typed up for Monday. The notes I needed were on my PC hard drive at home. So, next morning (I was due to go out Friday night, and I think to work effectively, it's good to have some down time), I switched my PC on. Nothing. After a few minutes of trying various things, I noticed a strange smell. The PSU had blown. I was able to pop down to my local Maplin, buy a PSU, and get home. Admittedly, it was a crap PSU (I didn't have much spare cash, so had to go for the cheapest one I could), but it did work, and I was able to do the documentation I needed.
Had Maplin not been around, it could have been a very different story, Yes, I could have gone up Tottenham Court Road, but I didn't have the time, and I may not have been able to afford a PSU up there, on top of my train fare.
I actually miss the days when you could go to an actual shop and have a decent selection of PC hardware. For instance, I have some files at home I like to have available on the home network. I could need them at any hour of the day, and I tend to run backups at night. Unfortunately, the only computer I have with is suitable for the task is my main PC. I'd like to move these files (and the backup process) to another PC.
As the new PC will go in my bedroom, I'd like it to be relatively small, and certainly quiet. I've been looking at Intel Nucs. Now, before committing >£600 to something (the NUCs themselves are relatively cheap, but don't include RAM or Storage, which can add significantly to the cost), I'd like to see it in action. Can I find a shop that sells them? No.. And yes, I know that the core i3 and celeron Nucs are a lot cheaper that the i5 or i7 nucs, but I like to learn about different OSs, and rather than trash whatever machine I happen to be using, I prefer to use VMs. It would be nice if I could leave these VMs running without bothering my main machine.