catalogue shops

   Argos is the leading catalogue store chain in Britain, and third in the world behind the American Best Products and Service Merchandise Groups. Argos has over 430 stores throughout Britain and the Republic of Ireland. It is estimated that around seven out of ten British households have a copy of the Argos catalogue. It is also the owner of Britain’s leading promotions and incentive company, Argos Business Solutions. Argos was launched in 1973 by Richard Tompkins of the Green Shield Trading Stamp company, which he initiated in 1958. Tompkins recognized that trading stamps had a limited public appeal and launched Argos as a diversification, having imported the idea from the USA, where catalogue shopping was flourishing. When Argos was launched, catalogue shopping referred to mail order. Argos offered the consumer all the benefits of browsing through a catalogue at home but coupled this with the immediacy of high street stores and instant purchasing. The Argos concept caught the nation’s imagination. Even in a time of national inflation, a three-day week and a shortage of raw materials and finished goods, it became an immediate and phenomenal success. In 1979, partly as a result of the failing health of Tompkins, Argos was acquired by British and American Tobacco for £35million. Over the next eleven years the number of stores quickly increased from 91 to 251 and sales rose from £113 million in 1979 to !!!!£818 million by the end of 1989. Also, since it began, Argos has been noted for its innovative use of information technology. It is Britain’s leading retailer in many product areas, such as toys and small electrical appliances, and has a significant market share in the sale of jewellery, sports equipment and do-it-yourself products. It has dominated the field since it first began and only one other company, Index Limited, which started trading in the late 1980s, has been successful in securing a share of the market. Ultimately, Argos and other similar catalogue shops are signifiers of the symptomatic immediate gratification which the late 1990s consumer demanded.
   See also: mail order
   FATIMA FERNANDES

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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