Argos (retailer)

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This article is about the catalogue retailer in the United Kingdom and Ireland. For the city in Greece, see Argos. For other uses, see Argos (disambiguation).
Argos Ltd
Subsidiary
Industry Retailer
Founded 13 November 1972; 44 years ago (1972-11-13)[1]
Founder Richard Tompkins
Headquarters Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, England
Areas served
United Kingdom, Ireland
Key people
John Rogers (CEO), Iain MacMillan (CFO), Bertrand Bodson (CDO)
Products Consumer goods
Revenue Sales billion (£4.282) (2009)
Number of employees
circa 51,000
Parent J Sainsbury plc
Website www.argos.co.uk

Argos is a British catalogue retailer operating in the United Kingdom and Ireland, and a subsidiary of Sainsbury's. The company trades both through physical stores and online, with over 750 stores and 800 million website visits a year, making it one of the largest high street retailers online in the United Kingdom.[2]

Argos was established in 1973, by Richard Tompkins, the founder of the Green Shield Stamps scheme, who rebranded the existing Green Shield Stamps catalogue shops as Argos, before opening new Argos branded stores later in the year. BAT Industries purchased the company in 1979, and in 1990, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange, where it became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

In April 1998, GUS plc bought the company, and it became part of Home Retail Group when GUS split in October 2006. In August 2013, it was estimated that 96% of the population of the United Kingdom was within 10 miles of an Argos branch.[3]

In April 2016, Argos' parent Home Retail Group agreed to a £1.4 billion takeover by the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's intend to close a number of separate Argos stores and integrate them into its Sainsbury's supermarkets.[4][5] The acquisition was completed on 2 September 2016 and the business became part of a division named Sainsbury's Argos led by its own chief executive.

History[edit]

Former Argos logo introduced in 1999, until 23 January 2010

The company was founded by Richard Tompkins who had previously established Green Shield Stamps in the United Kingdom. Whilst on holiday in the Greek city of Argos, he came up with the idea that people could purchase goods from his "Green Shield Gift House" with cash rather than savings stamps. He rebranded the original Green Shield Stamps catalogue shops as Argos beginning in July 1973,[6] the first purpose-built store opening on the A28 Sturry Road, Canterbury in late 1973. Green Shield House was in Station Road, Edgware.

Argos was launched with thousands of staff, taking £1,000,000 during a week in November.[7] Argos was purchased by BAT Industries in 1979 for £32 million. In 1980, Argos opened its Elizabeth Duke jewellery counter (named after a director's wife) and by 1982 was the United Kingdom's fourth biggest jewellery retailer. The Elizabeth Duke brand has since been phased out, and replaced with the "Jewellery and Watches" brand.

The company was demerged from BAT Industries and listed on the London Stock Exchange in 1990. In April 1998, it was then acquired by GUS plc.[8] In October 2006, it subsequently became part of Home Retail Group which was demerged from its parent company, GUS plc, with effect from 10 October 2006.[9]

A rebranded Argos branch in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire

In October 2009, it was announced that the Argos visual branding would be undergoing changes from 2010. This began on 23 January, with the relaunch of the main shopping website, the websites claim to make shopping with Argos more accessible. The careers website, and the release of the spring/summer 2010 catalogue were also relaunched. The company expect that the rebranding process will take "an number of years",[10] at a cost of £70 million.[11]

As part of the Autumn/Winter 2010 rebrand, all Argos Extra stores were planned to be branded simply as "Argos" when they are refitted. Former "Extra" marked lines will be available in all stores. However, stock levels will entirely depend on the area's demand for that particular line. If it does not sell, then the item will have to be ordered in to that store. Argos stores in city centres will theoretically have a slightly different stocked-in range than those on retail parks.[citation needed]

In September 2013, Argos announced a click and collect scheme, in partnership with eBay, which will allow customers to collect their eBay purchases from any Argos Store across the United Kingdom.

In January 2016, the sale of sister company Homebase for £34 million was announced.[12]

In April 2016, Argos' parent Home Retail Group agreed to a £1.4 billion takeover by Sainsbury's, following a bidding war between the supermarket chain and South African conglomerate Steinhoff International.[4] The acquisition was completed on 2 September 2016.[13]

Operations[edit]

Catalogues[edit]

Argos publishes catalogues twice a year (a spring/summer edition in January and an autumn/winter edition in July). Current editions[when?] have well over 1500 pages containing photographs of items, brief descriptions, prices and a catalogue number. Store copies are ring-bound and the pages individually laminated.

The in-store shopping process involves completing a small order form with the catalogue numbers of the desired items. Argos provides blue pencils in stores for this purpose. The order form is taken to the checkout and the items paid for, then the customer is given a receipt which indicates where they should wait for their items to be brought to them from the storeroom. Additionally, "Quick pay" kiosks are also available to place orders and pay. On handover of the goods, the receipt is stamped by the store "received" so it cannot be re-used.

Catalogues are complemented by seasonal sales flyers, offering non-catalogue lines and price reductions on existing deals. Other items are sometimes available in stores, such as ex-catalogue goods at reduced prices, especially after the launch of a new catalogue.

In March 2006, Argos carried out a trial of a new catalogue branded Argos Home in over 100 stores in the United Kingdom. This proved successful, and on 5 August 2006, it launched the second Argos Home catalogue, this time in all 200 Argos Extra stores. The catalogue only contains home furniture and styling tips for the current season. Most items displayed in the Argos Home catalogue are also available in the main catalogue too. There are occasionally new lines in the Home catalogue which may have not been available at the time the main catalogue went to print.

In recent years, the stock-checkers in some stores have been modernised into a touch-screen digital display, offering more visibility on the catalogued items. Other stores continue to contain the original stock-checkers.

In October 2012, Argos announced that, as of 2013, that they would be closing a number of their catalogue stores, thus fewer catalogues will be made available nationwide, after a significant profit fall, and also to boost the popularity of their online store. Claims, however, from the media that the stores themselves would change from their[14] states are false.

Own brands[edit]

Argos is the registered owner of a number of brands, which feature on a substantial number of products contained within the catalogue, including: Challenge,[15] Pro Action,[16] Visiq,[17][18] Cookworks,[19] Beanstalk,[20] Pro Fitness,[21] Opticom,[22] Grosvenor,[23] Steamworks,[24] Aquarius,[25] Coolworks,[26] Elevation, Acoustic Solutions, Mega Games and the now defunct Elizabeth Duke.[27][28]

In January 2009, Argos also struck a deal to take over the brands Alba, Bush,[29] and Chad Valley.[30] In January 2015, Argos took over the rights to sell the Cherokee clothing line from Tesco.[31]

Argos Credit Card[edit]

In August 2006, Barclays and Argos announced a joint venture to produce an Argos credit card (in the same year Barclays also joined with Thomas Cook).[32][33] Argos cancelled its contract with Barclaycard and a new Argos credit card was announced in 2012, this time in conjunction with Vanquis Bank.[34][35]

Former operations[edit]

HomeStore&More[edit]

During 2007, Home Retail Group launched a trial of five stores, branded HomeStore&More, situated in Aylesbury, Abingdon, Cambridge, Harlow and Cheltenham. These stores are operated by Argos[36] following Home Retail Group's acquisition of a stake in an Irish retail chain with the same name.[37] The Harlow store also included a "BedStore&More".[38] The trial was abandoned in February 2012, and the stores closed.[39]

The Irish stores still operate, with HRG's remaining interest sold in May 2013.

ArgosCompare[edit]

Argos operated a financial services price comparison website, in conjunction with BeatThatQuote.com.[40] In January 2012, ArgosCompare was taken offline, as it did not comply with new guidance issued by the UK Financial Service Authority.

Argos TV[edit]

On 15 June 2011, Argos TV was launched on Sky channel 642 and online.[41] On 25 October 2011, the channel was added to Freesat on channel 819.[42]

On 19 September 2012, Argos TV launched on Freeview nationwide on channel 55 for a limited set of hours, as well as full-time in Manchester on channel 59.[43] As part of a reshuffle of the Freeview EPG, the Manchester version moved to channel 54 on 17 October 2012. Argos had leased the Sky EPG slot from JML Direct TV for 12 months to trial the channel and also used JML's facilities in Kentish Town.[44]

The channel broadcast 24 hours daily, and was produced by ETV Media Group, with four hours of live programming each weekday, and eight hours a day at weekends.[45] Viewers were able to purchase items and collect them from local Argos stores through the retailer's "check and reserve" service.

The channel closed on 13 May 2013 in order for Argos to focus resources in other areas. Preceding this, the channel was removed from Freesat on 9 May. On Sky, it was immediately replaced with JML Living.[46]

International stores[edit]

In February 2007, Argos opened five stores in Mumbai, India. Argos had a franchise agreement, run in conjunction with HyperCity; its Indian retail partner. In January 2009, Argos closed all its stores in India due to poor sales.[47][48]

Controversies[edit]

Sunday trading[edit]

In July 2002, Argos sparked a political controversy in Scotland, when it sacked several workers for refusing to work on a Sunday.[49] This action would have been illegal in the rest of the United Kingdom, as the Sunday Trading Act 1994 gave shopworkers in England and Wales the right to refuse Sunday work (unless they were employed to work solely on a Sunday).

The 1994 Act did not apply to Scotland, as there was no legislation regarding Sunday trading applicable to Scotland. Although Argos later retracted its decision to sack the workers and to enforce a Sunday working clause in Scottish employee contracts,[50] its actions led to the passing of the Sunday Working (Scotland) Act 2003 which extended the legal right of employees to refuse Sunday working to include shopworkers in Scotland.

If an employee were to agree to work on a Sunday, they would be paid time and a half. This was then changed during 2010, when employees' pay went from time and a half to the normal hourly rate.[citation needed]

Price fixing[edit]

In May 2002, Argos, along with rival retailer Littlewoods Index, was accused by the Office of Fair Trading of price fixing goods from toy manufacturer Hasbro.[51] The decision reached in 2003 resulted in Argos being fined £17.28 million,[52] however, an appeal in 2005 led to that being reduced to £15 million.[53] Argos boss Terry Duddy gave evidence along with David Snow, Jonathan Ward, Alan Cowley, and Ian Thompson.[54] Argos and the other companies appealed to the Court of Appeal, which dismissed the case and ruled in favour of the Office of Fair Trading in October 2006.[55]

Furniture and skin burns[edit]

In February 2008, Chinese manufactured sofas from Argos and other retailers Land of Leather and Walmsleys were featured in a BBC Watchdog report on skin irritation.[56] The Chinese manufacturer, LinkWise, denies that the furniture is to blame for the incidents. Watchdog praised Argos for its speedy voluntary recall of the affected products, compared to the two other retailers involved. However, during a lengthy case ending in 2010, customers won compensation against the company.

Pricing in Ireland[edit]

In January 2009, the higher price that Argos charges for goods in Republic of Ireland, compared to the United Kingdom, attracted criticism.[57]

Workfare[edit]

In 2012 Argos withdrew from its involvement in the controversial Workfare scheme introduced by (then) Prime Minister David Cameron. Argos and its parent company Home Retail Group were heavily criticised by some for their involvement in the scheme failing to offer jobs to those who successfully completed the course. An external company poster produced by Home Retail Group's owned chain of stores Homebase supporting unpaid work to boost profits was leaked to the public and led to the discontinuation of workfare by all companies within the Home Retail Group and several other major companies (main article Workfare in the United Kingdom). [1]

Charity partnerships[edit]

As of May 2015, main charity partner for Argos is Macmillan Cancer Support. Previously they partnered with Alzheimer's Society, which operates in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and its sister charities Alzheimer Scotland and The Alzheimer Society of Ireland. All three charities will be Argos "Charity of the Year" in their respective territories in an arrangement scheduled to run until 2015.[58]

Previous major charity partnerships include the Teenage Cancer Trust, which began in July 2010, and ran until July 2012, the British Heart Foundation (July 2008 to July 2010) and Help The Hospices[59] (July 2006 to July 2008).

In a later charity initiative, Argos teamed up with Barnardo's in a six-week campaign in the run up to Christmas 2012 that raised £700,000 (over million) for the children's charity.[60] Under the scheme customers brought in unwanted toys to Argos or Barnado's stores in return for £5 Argos vouchers.[61] Argos passed on the old toys it collected to Barnado's for sale in the charity's own chain of shops.

References[edit]

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  4. ^ a b "Sainsbury's wins battle to buy argos". Retrieved 1 April 2016. 
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  53. ^ oft.gov.uk. Retrieved 4 March 2007.[dead link]
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External links[edit]