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Argos trials a new kind of multichannel delivery

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Central London users of Argos' Check & Reserve service can now have their goods couriered to them in as little as 90 minutes through the pilot of a new delivery service.

The new service, being trialled in 12 of the multichannel retailer's London stores over the next six months, allows customers with a central London postcode to have in-stock items from a 14,000-strong product range delivered within an hour and a half or at a time of their choice.

Argos has partnered with same-day delivery start-up Shutl to launch the service, with costs starting at £4.95. It gives customers who have found that the product they want to buy is in stock the option to go a step further than simply reserving it, and having it delivered quickly - saving them a trip to the shop.

Recent figures from Argos' parent company, the Home Retail Group, show that that 22% of Argos total sales in the 2009/10 full year were from customers using the online Check & Reserve service for store collection. That represented 36% growth in this channel for the second year in a row.

Ross Clemmow, Argos director of marketing operations, said: “This service provides us with a flexible and cost-effective delivery solution to extend the potential of Check & Reserve.

"Check & Reserve customers in the trial catchment area will still receive the convenience of securing stock availability, with the optional choice and convenience benefit of having it delivered to them fast, at a time that suits.”

Those customers who qualify to use the service will be presented with the opportunity to choose the Shutl delivery option on their reservation page. Customers then enter their postcode and select Shutl Now or Shutl Later delivery options to get a quote. Once they confirm the order, Shutl sends them a tracking email which lets them watch their delivery progress in real time on a GPS-enabled map.

The Shutl Later delivery option allows Argos customers to choose a convenient delivery time within a 48 hour reservation window at a time that is convenient to them. The service is being made available for a one-hour delivery slot between 9am and 9pm, seven days a week.

For those who choose not to have their item delivered, Argos guarantees to hold reserved products in store for two trading days.

Our view: Argos has a track record of pioneering multichannel developments that other retailers must then match. This is likely to be another. We predict it will be successful because with a relatively small payment shoppers can cut out a time-consuming journey to a shop and instead receive their goods in a timeframe that should feel like almost immediately, compared to other options currently on offer. To put it into context, Net-a-Porter, known for its speedy service, currently offers delivery by 5pm for London orders placed by 10am.

Of course, our enthusiasm comes with the proviso that the service must work. For as others have found, failing to meet ambitious delivery targets can be much more frustrating for customers than not offering them in the first place.

But if it does work, this will really raise the delivery stakes for online retailers - and we watch with interest to see who will match this first.

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