Old school catalogue shopping

Argos Catalogue

Its funny when you come to one country and find a concept that works quite well but realise the same concept failed miserably somewhere else.  One specific instance is the Consumers Distributing retail model….save money by not having expensive retail space replace it with a smaller storefront with catalogue stands, golf pencils and little pads of paper and a huge warehouse at the back for the merchandise.   That retail concept has been gone for quite a few years now in Canada (I am showing my age, I did I mention I turn 30 this year?  please send gifts) with no one trying to resurrect it which surprises me a bit as it is alive and well in the UK.

I still fondly remember going to Consumers Distributing to get whatever toy was hot at the time (Cabbage Patch Kids, Care Bears, Super Mario Bros, 2 or 3).  With the catalogue page number memorised we would grab the little order slip, desperately search for a pencil (which they always ran out of) then stand in line terrified that they would sell out of my new toy by the time I got to the front of the line.

In the UK, the store is called Argos and is set up exactly like Consumers Distributing with the rows of catalogues, papers and pens (Yes, they have upgraded from golf pencils to little blue pens – but they still tend to run out of them).   However the concept has evolved a bit and now there are little ‘stock checker’ boxes located beside the catalogues allowing you to key in the item number and see if it is in stock (allowing kids to the ‘it’s out of stock’ hissy fit beside the catalogues versus in front of the cashier – probably better for employee morale). 

My favourite bit is when you are waiting in store with your reciept with your order number in hand as it always feels like you am in some huge game of bingo.  You look around and it seems everyone is clutching their receipt starring at the TV screens willing their number to come up to complete a line and shout BINGO.   When your number is finally called, it blinks on the TV screen and is accompanied by this lovely English voice telling you to go to your pick up point.  I always feel like I have won something when my number comes up and I go bounding to my pick up point only to be handed some wooden hangers and plastic storage buckets….oh well maybe next time they will mix up my order and I’ll get a BBQ or new TV. 

Anyway not too sure why it didn’t work so well in Canada but I do enjoy the simplicity of it all and still enjoy getting the new quarterly catalogue to see what new toys the kids will throw their out of stock hissy fits over.

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6 Responses to Old school catalogue shopping

  1. Mike says:

    In the States it was called Service Merchandise. It no longer exists. Why is it still popular in the UK? More importantly, why did we Americans get fed up with it?

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  3. Ryan says:

    What a nice review of Argos, lol. I work in Argos myself, and it doesn’t sound like much changes, things are still mostly out of stock! Well, the things that people want anyway…

    I was surprised that other countries don’t have this kind of catalogue shopping, but i guess that’s just the way it is!

    Let me tell you that the “lovely English voice” isn’t so great when you hear it all the time, ha ha.

    • Adrienne says:

      Hahah I am still a big fan of Argos, I love the self service machines (sorry hope that doesn’t make your job obsolete) and waiting anxiously for your number to be called…regular shopping is almost boring compared to Argos 🙂

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