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Argos unveils ‘store for a digital future’ PICTURES

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Argos has today unveiled its first “store for a digital future”. These images are of the multichannel retailer’s first digital concept store, at Old Street, London. It is the first of six such stores to open – four in London and two new stores in Dunfermline and Colchester – which will test ideas for the wider Argos estate.

Highlights of the Old Street shop include a 60-second Fast Track collection service for items ordered and paid for online or via mobile, while in-store shoppers will buy at Pay and Collect podiums. The traditional central laminated catalogue and stockchecker machine is replaced in these stores by self-service iPads in a customer service area where shoppers can browse product videos and customer reviews. Alternatively, customers can connect to free in-store wi-fi as they use their own mobile devices. Dynamic digital screens will replace sales literature and posters, and there will be more staff to help customers on the sales floor.

Behind the scenes, a hub-and-spoke distribution system will be trialled across 50 stores including the four London digital concept stores, promising immediate, same day or next day fulfillment on a range of about 20,000 products. Typical Argos stores stock around 12,000 products.

John Walden, managing director of Argos, said: “We are early in our ambitious plan to transform Argos into a digital retail leader. We are seeking to reposition our stores to support a digital future, in which digital channels are the primary interface for customers, but stores continue to be critically important as a national network for product collection and a local presence for local colleagues to provide customer service.”

More than 40% of Argos’ sales are now made via digital channels, and 16% of total sales come via mobile devices – smartphones or tablet computers. But still, customers come into store at some point in around 90% of Argos transactions. The general merchandise retailer turned over £3.9bn in the year to February 2013, and employs 30,000 people.

Walden said: “The new digital concept stores enable us to trial with customers several important features of what we believe a store should offer in a digital future, such as a modern and universally-appealing environment, a fast and digitally-enabled shopping journey, market-leading fulfillment options for an increasing range of products and friendly colleagues that provide a human touch in an otherwise impersonal digital transaction.

“We anticipate that our digital concept stores, and the several features in trial will provide valuable in instructing any future changes we may make across to our store estate to further the Argos transformation.”

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