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With the news that, after just two months in the job, Argos' new boss is launching a full review of 748-strong retail chain, the end result may provide an answer to the question on many people's lips; is the Argos format outdated? Some analysts in the past have suggested that the retail chain would need to move to an online-only format to survive, although I feel this would potentially overlook the multi-channel opportunities open to a retailer that operates both a transactional website and bricks and mortar outlets. Just look at the success of John Lewis' click and collect service, where customers can pick up web orders from any one of John Lewis' outlets, as well as some of its Waitrose stores.

Then there's the online points in the retailer's smaller-format stores, which literally put the mouse in the hand of the shopper and make it even easier for them to browse and order from the full John Lewis range without ever having to visit a full-line department store.

I would be interested to know how many people still head to an Argos store to flip through a catalogue, before filling out an order slip, checking the product is in stock, queuing to pay, and then waiting for their number to be called before they can take their item home. I would still shop at Argos and believe it still has a place in the retail market but, like many, would prefer to check stock levels and place my order online so it is ready and waiting, negating the need to sit and wait instore on a weekend or evening.

So, in an age where convenience is key and shoppers would rather spend their browsing time online before a purposeful visit to the high street or retail park, is the function of Argos' units as a retail store still viable or is it worth considering a high street outlet that merely acts as a collection point or shop window?

As Mr Walden assesses the retail chain's function, he might like to look at the example set by eBay's pop-up Christmas shop, which had no tills, and no products for that matter, just display models of 350 of the auction site's bestsellers. Shoppers simply scanned the product's QR code into their phone, purchased it online and arranged for delivery. Then there's Amazon's collection lockers at shopping centres and railway stations across the UK. While these options would certainly reduce overheads, who knows whether either format would work for Argos or what the future holds for the chain but I'm sure the industry will be watching with anticipation.
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Posted by Fiona Garcia | 10 May 2012 | 16:01 | More from: Editor's Blog

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