Imagine a retail store that has falling sales, apparently isn't much loved by its customers and which analysts think will pretty soon be beaten out of existence by Internet-based rivals. Anyone want to stand up for PC World?

Let's ignore the unpleasant 15 percent sales decline in the last quarter reported by parent company DSG, and last week's alarming 42 percent customer satisfaction score in a Which? survey of the store's consumers. To put this into context, smug, over-priced and control-freak Apple scored top marks at 88 percent, although to be fair it is selling its own products not other people's. Still, not good.

The case for the defence of PC World is simple. There will always be a need to try products before buying them, and in most towns that means a trip to PC World.

Without it, computer buyers would have nowhere to go to try out the latest products, even if they don't end up (as appears to be the case) buying them from PC World. This sort of thing matters. The latest laptop might look OK on the screen at an Internet store, but that 190 pixel by 190 pixel image doesn't tell you whether the keyboard is esoteric or uncomfortable, the screen hard to view at certain angles, and the build quality worth whatever is being asked.

And if anything does go wrong, taking a non-working laptop back to an Internet store and you'll discover a minimum £25 shipping and insurance bill, not to mention having to wait probably weeks for a replacement.

Without wanting to defend poorly trained or recalcitrant staff, high repair prices and the dodgy hard sell (assuming that these are fair criticisms), PC World is the physical layer that helps support the whole computer buying market. Losing it from retail parks would be like the car industry losing its showrooms.

Even once direct-only vendors such as Dell understand the importance of hands-on buying, and its products feature prominently in PC World stores.

PC World's troubles do not tell us that the computer store has had its day, far from it. It suggests that the company needs to tweak its model, or that someone else needs to take the risk and move into the market and do a better job. A world of Internet-only computer shops would be a different world, but I doubt that customers would feel much happier as they swapped the cash till for the delivery box.