Time Computers plans to open shops in high streets to house PC workshops and sell peripherals and consumables, such as scanners and printer cartridges.
The first store will be opened at the Bluewater shopping centre, near Dartford in Kent, in the next two weeks. In the process, Time will close most of its 150 out-of-town showrooms.
The move is all part of the Burnley-based PC maker's strategy to attract repeat buyers, whereas until now it has concentrated on selling high-value complete PC systems to first-time PC owners.
The inclusion of high-street workshops offering repair and upgrade will be particularly welcome to Time's customers, said Time's PR manager, Colin Middlemiss. "You only have to look at the issues raised in PC Advisor's ConsumerWatch section to see what people want. The local workshops mean customers won't have to deal with head office as much."
PC World, part of the Dixons Stores Group and Britain's biggest PC retailer, already offers repair and upgrade facilities at its outlets, but these are mostly in out-of-town-locations.
Selling peripherals and consumables is a logical strategy for Time. Although much lower in price than a PC, a printer cartridge carries a much higher profit margin, and stocking such items in high street stores turns them into impulse purchases.
Conventional wisdom says that second-time PC buyers tend to purchase through direct vendors, such as Dell, Mesh or Evesham, rather than through retail outlets, such as PC World. But Middlemiss said there is still a strong role for retail to play. Time will continue its build-to-order strategy, although the larger shops will carry a few of Time's most popular PCs.