Re: dropped off a *long* time ago
"so Maplin "diversified" into all sorts of cheap electronic tat - sold at premium prices - in the mistaken belief that this would get customers into their shops again"
When you realise that Maplin is owned by the same people who own B&Q, it would explain much about the state of both chains....
"I don't expect the English company to last much longer - they've already shut about a third of their branches"
Which is interesting in itself because they were still opening new branches even 5 years ago.
"they're selling the wrong things at the wrong prices"
And largely in the wrong locations. Punters won't go to shops which are difficult to get to when it's trivial to jump online and order stuff.
As for component prices - it's a bit like PC World: I only go there when something is stupidly discounted and worth getting, or when I need something _now_ and can stand the premium price. Even then it's not at all uncommon (in both) to find that the part I want is only available in one store with abysmal parking access 20 miles away (and not the 3-4 closer ones) - so the need has to be pretty desperate.
FWIW: Dick[head]Smith component pricing was much the same deal even in the 80s - you could invariably buy the same stuff cheaper from independents - and much better quality - DSE was clearly buying the bottom of the barrel as transistor gains were all over the place (vs getting 100 components within 1% of each other from other suppliers) and if you bought 100 red LEDs you'd find they were 100 different combinations of colour and brightness (vs the independent selling you Philips LEDs which would be brighter, consistent colouration from year to year and 1/4 the price)
Thumbs up for the Jaycar mention. They always had better quality components and were usually cheaper too.