Re: The one advantage that physical retail has..immediate availability
Being a person to whom if it works then it's good enough (form follows function), I've ended up getting most of the white goods I've needed to buy recently (mainly washers and driers) from our local Co-Op.
OK, you often only have a choice of 1 or 2, but they take are prepared to sell the display model if they don't have any 'out back', and give a discount and full warranty if you end up with the display model.
Walk in (even quite late at night), see what they have, check whether it should do the job, go to the till, get the duty manager paged, purchase, and take out to the car, often being helped by the manager themselves! It's that simple (helped by the fact that we've got an MPV).
You have to put up with a small choice, and the brands that they stock, but so far, we've always got something that will do the job! I know that will not suit everybodies shopping needs, but it works for us.
In reality, not having devices available in stock is a direct concequence of too much choice. As pointed out bu a previous poster, it is simply not possible to keep several instances of every item if you have a large range being displayed, especially when it comes to white-goods.
In some respects, I would prefer to have guaranteed availability in store of a smaller range flagged on the display, with other items on display carrying expected delivery information. This makes sure that immediate availabillity can be part of the customer decision up front, rather than making it something you have to initiate a dialogue with the sales person in order to find out that they have.
The other thing I find amusing when looking through the spare parts listings for white goods is how many of the different brands are built in the same factories using the same parts, and only differ in cosmetic detail. It would be so much nicer to not have the same device with a different brand confusing the potential customer and cluttering up the display in these sales-warehouses.