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Last Updated: Friday, 19 November, 2004, 10:51 GMT
10 ways to improve computer shops
Apple store in London, pic by Dominic Di-Natale
Apple stores are admired for their design
Many shoppers find trips to computer stores a frustrating experience. One chain is predicting a gloomy Christmas for sales, while Apple fans are hoping the company's new flagship London store can improve the "retail experience". How could shopping for computers, cables, chips and games become less stressful? Ten hardened shoppers give their thoughts.

1. "Readers of my magazine are mostly just starting out and it would be good if in-store they could have a programme of lectures or workshops teaching people how to do the basic stuff, like downloading tunes." (Dan McNamara, editor of Internet & Broadband Adviser)

2. "For gamers you don't want package deals, you want component centres where they can pick and choose the parts they want for their systems." (Philip Wride, co-ordinator of the one of the UK's top gaming clans 4 Kings)

3. "Poor service is a common complaint and is a critical factor in the electrical goods market. A lot of those high priced products require better communication. It's a price competitive market so the trick is to get people to trade up to the high margin, but they need to invest more in service to do that." (Retail analyst Nick Gladding of Verdict Research)

4. "The biggest thing people want from bricks and mortar stores has to be lower prices - online stores like dabs.com are still generally cheaper." (Geoff Harris, editor of PC Format)

5. "What I'd really like is to walk in a place where they'll clean my laptop while I have a coffee. Have the screen polished and the keyboard Hoovered while I get some caffeine inside me. I'd pay for that, definitely." (Blogger Ben Hammersley)

6. "Availability is top of my list, in view of not being able to get hold of an iPod mini for love nor money. And a wide range of products is important. If I'm choosing a laptop I want to know that they have the biggest range and specification availability without being a PC World or Tiny Computers warehouse." (Chris Bateson, European account director at The Marketing Store)

7. "I think stores are designed a little bit too much like superstores, with bright spots and strip lights, aisles packed with boxes. It all seems to be based around shifting pre-packaged machines to families, or people who are starting-out with computers. How about a place where it's more suited to the serious computer/networking fan? That would feature a large stock room in the back full of bits to order, a bench where you can build, test and benchmark your ideal machine from its components and a fully stocked bar." (Computer security expert Phil Robinson of IRM Plc)

8. "I'm a bit of a technical beginner and I need to feel comfortable and relaxed within such shops. This is helped by friendly, open and knowledgeable staff who must be able to describe the product accurately and in a manner I can understand." (Banker Chris Brown)

9. "There should be the ability to try the games out. That's something missing and you would expect stores to do that. Virgin promotes all the latest titles but there's no pod. I know there's a cost implication of putting in an X-Box but it should be done." (Craig Fletcher, head of Multiplay UK)

10. "Clearer labelling of areas would help, maybe one for new users and one for expert users, so people who know what they want can go straight to it and pick it up from the shelf and others can get advice." (Simon Pickstock, editor of PC Answers)

What would your perfect computer shop be like? A selection of your comments appear below.

People who work in computer shops need to be experts who can cater to all levels of shopper. I'd also like a shop where being a girl isn't a disadvantage; I have been in many game shops where they assume I know nothing just because of my gender, which frankly is patronising rubbish.
Vanella , UK

The perfect computer shop would be staffed by people who don't have to meet sales targets. They would be courteous and knowledgeable and each would be an expert in a different area so difficult questions could be answered straight away or passed on to another assistant. It would be laid out like a supermarket but without the reorganisation every day to try to push certain goods at you. There would be an array of the latest gadgetry/technology for inspection. Finally, there would be a store layout guide in several languages available as a map and on a board at the front of the supermarket. Sounds a bit like an on-line store that I use...
Tony H, UK

Somewhere that doesn't charge premium prices for aftersales support and technical help. the number of times I have overheard a sales person tell a customer "that'll be 50 for the memory and another 30 for us to install it for you" Maybe some kind of DIY leaflets that guide the not so technically minded to carry out simple tasks like virus scanning and installing extra memory rather that pay over the odds for the store to do it.
Lee, UK

Technologically beautiful, it should have plenty of cool gadgets to 'wow' the customer. First impressions can count in shops. Then the furniture and fittings have to be modern and if possible, be able to use technology to its advantage.
Kashif Akhtar, UK

Actually being able to demo the program or device you're interested in, rather than having to buy it to try it out. Too many of them aren't what they seem and you don't find that out till you get home.
Mike, Scotland

Somewhere where the staff know what they are talking about would be good. I work in the IT industry and have several colleagues who if they are bored on a lunch time will think up a question to go and ask in our local computer showroom. It's then the afternoon's entertainment to laugh over the responses they got!
Caroline, UK

Would appreciate greater availability of OEM products (unboxed, bulk products geared towards system builders). In a lot of cases we are tossing away large sums of money on fancy packaging- when all we really want are the contents. Also bulk packaged products obviously are cheaper to ship and sell, and hence should be a lot cheaper for consumers.
Shane McCarrick, Ireland

My ideal PC shop would be one free of anything to do with Bill Gates and Micro$oft.
Hugh, UK

I would like to see PC repairs and upgrades while you wait, a bit like a tyre replacement centre, where I can sit down have a coffee, surf the web whilst my machine is sorted.
Andy Gilbert, England

I believe the future is warehouse style stores that just have products for demonstration, all orders would then be placed either online or via instore pcs. That way you get rid of the pushy salesmen and hopefully prices can drop too to match the online stores already around such as dabs.com.
Colin Wynn, Bordon, Hampshire

The perfect computer shop would be one not full of clueless shoppers who wander in under the impression that they're buying something as simple and straightforward as a toaster. It's sheep like these who leave their PCs vulnerable to spyware and hackers, who fall for phishing scams and make life 10 times worse for the rest of us!
Mike C, UK

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