RETAILER Argos is to undergo a digital overhaul that will see its catalogue take a back seat and at least 75 stores closed or relocated over the next five years.

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Parent company Home Retail Group said today it would reduce the circulation of the traditional Argos catalogue, launched in 1973, as it refocuses the chain as a digital-led retailer.

It also plans to trim its 739-strong store estate and move shops into shorter leases to be able to relocate as part of a plan to use stores as pick-up points for online orders.

Home Retail stressed that having a “strong local presence” remained important but said that the role of its stores would “be adapted in order to support a digital offer”.

The news comes after a six-month review of the Argos chain to revive the business.

In half-year results also announced today, Home Retail said underlying earnings at Argos were 3% down at £3.3million with a return to like-for-like sales growth, up 0.6% in the six months to September 1.

Underlying earnings at the group’s DIY and gardening business Homebase also fell, by 18% to £24.5m, with like-for-like sales across the 340-store chain down 6.2% after being hit by the wash-out summer weather.

Overall, Home Retail’s profits for the half year were 37% down at £18m, although this was towards the upper end of City expectations.

Argos, which has already cut the print run for its twice-yearly catalogue by 18% over the past two years, will launch its first digital catalogue before Christmas.

However, it said it was unlikely the printed version would be axed entirely in the short term as around 85% of customers currently viewed its catalogue before buying.

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