Last year for Britain's legendary Argos Catalogue

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/07/30/last-year-for-britains-legen.html

I love Bill Bailey’s bit on the Argos Catalogue.

7 Likes

I loved looking through this as a kid. Couldn’t afford anything, but still, it was awesome to see what sort of stuff was available.

4 Likes

A lot of Argoses (Argeese?) are popping up inside Sainsbury’s supermarkets so they’re definitely scaling back but I wonder how they have room to store the whole range.

Totally makes sense about the catalogue though. Just go online.

(Or shop online elsewhere and cut out Argos entirely.)

you’ll now shop online and just go to the store to pick the items up

How is this business model feasible when Amazon exists?

1 Like

They’re owned by Sainsbury’s.

So a lot of people will already be going shopping there anyway.

If you need something but aren’t in a huge rush - or can’t be bothered faffing around being in waiting for a delivery - then this is somewhat attractive.

Attractive enough for Argos to continue? I don’t know.

Currently a lot of Argos shops have quite a bit of space for catalogues & displays. Frankly, why not just swap that out for cafe space? Free wifi so people can order stuff, and they make money on the coffee too…

5 Likes

They are owned by Sainsbury’s now, and they’ve used that loophole recently to avoid having to close when non-essential business have closed, but supermarkets could stay open. The Argos areas there became collect only, and it seems that’s being rolled out across all their floorspace. As for warehouse space: standalone Argoses will still have those (unless they’re sold off), but otherwise it’d be deliveries from central hubs, much like Currys/PC World.

Still, the catalogues are an intriguing social history - it’s interesting to see how tastes change over time.

2 Likes

The scenes they would do for some of the toys were great. Pretty sure it was why I wanted Manta Force toys alone.

Also, how did this article not include a link to the Bill Bailey skit from which that domain was named?

2 Likes

There’s always been more than a hint of snobbery around Argos but they’re one of the few places - apart from Amazon - which do next day or sometimes same-day delivery, and I’ve never had to worry about counterfeit goods.

The idea of flicking through the unwashed in-store catalogues, though … yikes.

2 Likes

I’ll miss the laminated book of dreams emporium experience where you’ll go in not really expecting to buy something but check for ‘the thing’ and do a stock check and not buy it. I’m glad they still exist even though Sainsbury’s now own them but it’s better than Amazon buying every fucking thing. Surprised the laminated book of dreams lasted as long as it did.

1 Like

That makes me think of Service Merchandise, long-defunct, here in the States. You’d walk in to the showroom, place your order via a dumb terminal (how I remember it in the mid-1980s), and it would roll out of the warehouse on a conveyor belt.

5 Likes

Yessir, magical and awful at the same time.

1 Like

Growing up in deepest Cornwall in the early 1980s, the Truro branch of Argos was a little slice of magic.

Making an occasional trip to pick up a new Atari cartridge was something of a pilgrimage… filling out the cryptic codes on the little red slips using the tiny pens was something of a rite of passage.

2 Likes

That’s too bad; I like being able to look at a thing before buying it, and Argos coupled that with being able to see what they sold before trudging in, and then buying it on the spot if you decided you liked it.

I’ve shopped at both, and it was pretty similar, except the SM shops I went too were always a bit on the depressing side: dusty, lots of exposed neon lamp fixtures that did’t light the place very well. Argos is not exactly cheerful, but my local one was clean and light.

2 Likes

I did a look through of the 76-77 catalog. The toy section brought back good memories of childhood.

If they get their act together, it could be really convenient. Sainsbury’s already does online groceries, if they incorporated Argos deliveries along with your shopping, then they become Amazon, with a warehouse in every town. Unfortunately, getting all their divisions- groceries, Argos, Habitat (homewares) and Tu(clothing) to all work together is a challenge

3 Likes

The UK generally lacks space for big-box stores that sell everything, a la Wal-Mart .

Not sure that reasoning holds. Canada had “showroom catalog” stores as well, up until about 20 years ago. Consumers Distributing was a big chain that I remember. We certainly had space for big box stores (Canada is all space) but that was a business model that didn’t really exist yet. Department stores were viewed as the largest you’d ever want to go in the “displayed merchandise” format. Who wants to do all that walking and drive 45 minutes to the store? And the parking lot would have to be monstrous! Turns out none of that bothers a lot of people.

Edit: the Wikipedia page on Consumers Distributing is unexpectedly fascinating. @beschizza , the claim made there is that Argos was actually based on the Canadian-born CD. Remarkable, if true.

1 Like

This topic was automatically closed after 5 days. New replies are no longer allowed.