So, the plastic-coated Argos catalogue is no more.
Argos says that online shopping offers “greater convenience” than leafing through a printed product, so no further take-home editions of its glittering offerings will be produced. Instead, the things you can buy will be listed and displayed only online.
The catalogue was first launched in 1972. In February of that year, British Prime Minister Edward Heath declared a state of emergency as a result of the miners’ strike. The Troubles in Northern Ireland were at their height. On 4 August, a strike by thousands of dockworkers led to the government declaring another state of emergency. The people needed cheering up. With the Argos catalogue you could gaze upon page after page of shiny things you never knew you needed. The catalogue became Europe’s most widely-printed publication, with only the Bible in more homes across the UK.
Some have mourned its passing, but I never circled potential birthday and Christmas gifts on its pages. (The chances that I would have got any of them were vanishingly small.)
The stores were also a mystery to me. I am of the generation that went into a few shops, found the thing I wanted to buy (and maybe tried it on in a changing room), then took it to the till. That whole “consulting a catalogue, writing an unending code number on a slip of paper, negotiating payment, then waiting for your item to be sent up from the stockroom” ceremony was beyond me. Even with the discounts.
In this year of Covid 19, e-commerce has had a stratospheric increase in popularity, so this decision seems timely. In the decade when we have to fix our climate, that’s a lot of trees we won’t have to cut down to print pictures of SuperNintendos on, too.
If you miss the browsing, worry not. Argos has made all its past books of dreams available. Where? Online, of course.