Colchester: Town’s Argos store to be among the first to see catalogues replaced by tablet computers

Argos's new trial store in Old Street, London, where tablet computers will replace the retailer's tr

Argos's new trial store in Old Street, London, where tablet computers will replace the retailer's trademark laminated catalogues. - Credit: PA

Colchester is to be among the first towns in the country to see the roll-out of a trial format for Argos stores which sees tablet computers replacing the retailer’s familiar laminated catalogues.

The first of the new-look stores, which will allow customers to browse, check product reviews and order via in-store iPads, was opened today in Old Street, London,

Three further hi-tech sites planned across the capital, in Marble Arch, Old Kent Road and Chancery Lane, with stores in Colchester and Dunfermline also to be equipped as part of plans by Argos to transform itself into a digital-led retailer.

Tables of tablet computers will take the place of its traditional catalogues, pencils and paper slips across the trial outlets, although Argos assured customers it would not axe its catalogues entirely and would still make them available on customer service desks for those “more comfortable using them for shopping”.

The new stores will also offer a fast-track 60-second collection service for customers who pre-order products online or via mobile devices.

Argos says it already makes more than 40% of sales online, while revenues from smartphone and tablet orders are also increasing at a rapid pace and now account for 16% of total sales.

It recently posted a more than doubling in operating profits to £7.7million in the six months to August 31, up from £3.3m a year earlier thanks in part to early progress on its overhaul.

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Argos is scaling back the print version of its catalogue as it introduces more digital versions, while it is also closing or relocating at least 75 stores over the next five years.

However, it insisted today that the store estate will remain at the heart of its business, with around 90% of all sales still involving a shop.

John Walden, managing director of Argos, said: “Stores continue to be critically important as a national network for product collection, and a local presence for local colleagues to provide customer service.”

The group hopes to use the best elements of its concept stores to reinvigorate its wider high street chain of around 735 stores.

Half of all customers still pay and collect in stores, although a growing number, around a third, shop online to click and collect.

Its concept stores will enable shoppers to pay online for the first time and then pick up orders from fast-track points, with a new distribution model allowing either immediate, same-day or next-day collection on an expanded range of around 20,000 products.