What does PC World think it's doing?

PC World is making a big deal of providing the ‘best of both worlds’. But have they thought it through?
Let me tell you a story. I’ve started seeing blue screens of death, a relative rarity in XP to be fair, and I think my hard disk is about to give up. In the past, this hasn’t been a big worry. But with work material, digital photos and a sizeable collection of music on there, it’s time to take backup seriously. I decided I needed an external hard disk.
I thought I’d check PC World’s website to see what I could lay my hands on immediately. Of course, a web-only retailer is almost always going to be cheaper, but you know how it is: today could be the day the disk gives up, only for the new HD to be delivered tomorrow. I was quite surprised to find PC World’s prices were very competitive. Maybe not the rock-bottom lowest, but then again, you might pay a few quid extra for the confidence of buying from a name supplier.
Here’s where the ‘best of both worlds’ thing kicks in. You can make your purchase over the web, at a web kind of price, and travel to your local store to collect the item. The web prices are, often, dramatically cheaper than the off-the-shelf prices. In the case of external HD drives, maybe 20, 30 or 40 quid knocked off a £100 purchase. That’s too big a disparity.
Picture the scene. Two people walk into a store, go to the same shelf, lift the same item, take it to towards the exit. One of them whips out a sheet of A4, proving he has already paid – and paid a heck of a lot less than the other guy is about to. Mr Walked-In-Off-The-Street isn’t going to be too chuffed, for a start. And I bet you that next time, he’s going to go straight to the web.
But isn’t PC World’s reason for existing, the fact that it has a shop in the local retail park? Doesn’t it rely on the non web-savvy consumers for its business? So what is it doing, turning all its customers into web-first people? Once people realise how easy, and how much cheaper it is to buy online, won’t they stop coming into the shops at all? Particularly when they see – on your own website – how much you’ve been ‘overcharging’ them?
Maybe PC World sees its future in logistics and warehousing. It’s certainly a curious way to run a chain of shops.