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Argos is a national, general retailer based on the idea of shopping by catalogue. They were founded in 1973 and are owned currently owned by GUS plc who own well known companies such as Homebase and Experian. They currently have over 540 stores in the UK and Republic of Ireland and according to their website 98% of the population live within 10 miles of an Argos store which is quite a high concentration meaning that you never have to go too far if you need something urgently. They also employ over 23,000 people in their stores, warehouses and head office. During the financial year 2002/2003 they took over £3 billion in sales which is pretty good!
As I have already told you a bit about the number of stores I will not go into too much more detail, other than to say they have three main formats of stores. These are: - Normal stores, which are by far the majority of stores that you are likely to use ranging in size from 6,000 to 15,000 square feet which is fairly small when compared to some of the shops that are on the high street but really you do not need really big stores for this type of business - Large stores (used to be called superstores, now called Argos extra stores) which are found in the larger cities with a size of 20,000 to 30,000 square feet which is medium sized when compared to other stores - Call and collect stores, which are sized between 1,000 to 3,000 square feet and are found in places where either larger premises are not available or the local population could not support a larger store. I personally have never been in this type of store as there are none near where I live however, I have done some research into them and will explain a bit more about them later on.
------What do they sell------
As I said at the beginning of the review Argos are a general retailer and according to their website they are the leading UK general merchandise retailer. Consequently, they sell a large range of products and it is difficult to list them all here and give them sufficient justice however, suffice to say if you want something for the home they are likely to sell it.
However, you could divide what they sell into the following categories (both their website and catalogue uses these): - Furniture -> In this category they sell things such as beds, sofas, chairs, wardrobes, mattresses, cupboards etc… Most of this section are only available for home delivery (I’ll explain later), as obviously they do not have the room to store 20 sofas on the off chance that someone is going to want one and really who is going to carry one home – you would need a pretty big bag. - Homewares -> Here they sell bedding, lighting, rugs, curtains, kitchen wear etc… The vast majority of these products are all available to take home from your local store (of course as long as they have them in stock) - Household Appliances -> Here they sell things such as dishwashers, fridges, freezers, cookers, sewing machines, microwaves, kettles, irons and about any other electrical appliance you would want for the home. - Sound and Vision -> This is where they sell things such as TVs, DVD players, video recorders, hifi systems, personal audio players, musical instruments and handy accessories such as blank tapes, CD player cleaners etc… - Office, PC and Phone -> Here they sell things mainly to do with computers including PCs, laptops, printers, scanners, ink cartridges, printer paper and software. However, they also sell personal organisers, mobile phones, house phones and a range of other related products (Note in this category there are products such as PCs, ink cartridges etc… that although they supply them you can find them quite a bit cheaper elsewhere if you look around!) - Photography -> You can get about anything to do with cameras here including ‘old type’ cameras (35mm, APS, SLR(manual cameras – mainly used by professional photographers)), digital ‘still’ cameras, digital ‘video cameras’ and accessories such as films, bags and stands - Sports and Leisure -> Here you can get things such as luggage, camping equipment, sports equipment and keep fit equipment, including treadmills and rowing machines, bikes and as usual a range of accessories including helmets, lights etc… - DIY, Garden and Pets -> If you are a man who likes his ‘little toys’ then this is the place to come, as they sell everything from cordless drills, routers, saws, pressure washers, hedge trimmers, chain saws etc… With summer coming up they also sell appropriate products such as barbeques and if you are feeling really keen and have a few days to spare then you can buy a conservatory from them and put it up yourself. (I would not necessarily recommend the latter as I have built one before with the help from a couple of relatives and it is not easy – this is one of the instances where it is better to pay someone else to do it) - Toys and Games -> If you have young children or are still a kid at heart then they sell everything here from Playstations, to the latest Action man and some of the classics in between such as Cluedo, Trivial pursuit (a little too brain intensive for me, but some like it) and Monopoly. - Baby -> Not having children means I stay away from this section but after having a quick browse through the catalogue they sell things such as cots, sterilisers and stair safety doors. - Personal Care -> They sell thing here from shavers to electric toothbrushes and everything in between such as hair dryers, tanning systems and those machines with pads that you stick on you that are meant to tone you. - Jewellery and Watches -> This has got to be the place to come for watches – they sell a large variety of different styles for different price ranges. As the name suggests they also sell things such as rings, bracelets, necklaces etc…
------What are their products like------
All of their products are made from a variety of well known and well respected brands to those that you may not have heard of before. I like this as some shops tend to specialise in their own brands (not mentioning any names … Currys… Oops!) and so you do not get such a variety. For example if you are looking for a 14” TV then you can find brands such as Sony and Panasonic that are near the top of the price range and manufacturers such as Alba and Bush (owned by the same company – but still use different trading names) at the lower end. This means that they appeal to a wide variety of people from those that stick to a particular high end brand to those people who may be on a limited budget.
------How do you buy products------
As this review is located under offline retailers I will not mention too much about their website however, I think it is good to include a few details.
There are several different ways of leading to buying a product so I will divide them up: Offline methods - You go instore without looking at the catalogue before hand and search the store copies of the brochure for a particular product you are interested in. When you have made your choice you will see next to the product description that there is a seven digit product code in the format of three numbers then a forward slash and then four numbers (e.g. 123/4567). In between each pair of catalogues there is a little blue machine that checks the stock for any item for you. So you type in your seven digit code (without the slash) and it will tell you if the item is in stock (if it is how many are in stock), price and a brief product description so you can check that you have not entered the wrong code by mistake. I really like this system as I can remember a few years ago going into a busy store on a Saturday and queuing up only to be told at the till that what I wanted was out of stock and having to quickly look through the catalogue to find something else. Once you have checked the items are in stock you go to a till and the cashier types in the code and then checks it is the right product that you want to buy and then you pay. You are then given a receipt which has an order number on and a collection point letter. You then wait at your collection point until your order number is called and your purchases are put in a bag for you. And that’s that! - Alternatively you can reserve an item or items either on their website or their ring and reserve number and you will be able to check stock at any store and put your purchases on hold for 24 hours. You are then given a reservation number which you need to write down. You then go instore to the till point and quote the reservation number. The assistant will then inform you of the price and name of the product(s) you have reserved and you pay in the normal way. The rest of the process is then the same as above. Online and telephone methods - Go to their website (www.argos.co.uk) and search for the products you require – either by keyword or 7 digit item number. I personally find it easier to look through their catalogue first and then just key in the item numbers as I find it to be quicker, but at least you don’t have to have a copy of their latest brochure. Once you find an item you like you click on an icon that says ‘Add to your trolley’. You are then taken to ‘Your trolley’ where all the items you have selected have been added. At this point you can change the quantity or delete any items you wish. Then you can either continue to shop or checkout. If you have decided to checkout then next to all of your items you need to select the ‘Home delivery’ option as opposed to ‘Instore pickup’. You are then requested to enter the delivery address, payment details, your name and contact details. Also depending on the products you have selected you can choose the date of delivery. Otherwise you will be contacted by phone later. - Also you can ring their ordering line where a telephone operator takes the item codes you require and tells you the availability for each. As with the internet option various details are required. If the delivery date can be chosen there and then they will give you the different options, otherwise you will be contacted by phone.
------What's their refund/exchange policy?------ The majority of products that they sell are covered by a 16 day refund policy. So if you decide that you don’t like a product you can return it unused in its packaging, with your receipt and you will be able to get a refund or exchange. However, some products are exempt from this policy so it is worth double checking before purchasing. On tip is that if you are buying instore you can request to view a product before actually buying it, so you can look at a product before buying e.g. you may want to check the size of something. If however, a product has a manufacturer fault within a year then by law they are forced to give you a refund, even without a receipt!
------How can you pay------ There are several different methods of paying: Instore – Cash, Cheque (with cheque guarantee card), Mastercard, Visa Credit Card, Visa Debit Card, Switch, Solo, American Express, Style or Argos Card Online – the same as above but without cash and cheque.
------Delivery------ Whilst the majority of items can be collected instore certain ones cannot and so I have included delivery information for all products -Most items that are displayed for delivery within 2 working days(these are normally products that you can buy and collect instore)- For orders under £125 there is a standard £3.95 charge. For orders above this it is FREE! If an item on their website is displayed as usually delivered within 48 hours then you can choose the exact date for delivery by courier (in my area they use Reality) and if ordering before 1 pm for an extra £2.95 you can have your order delivered the next working day. For £2.95 on top of the standard charge you can choose to have delivery on a Saturday, which is handy if you work during the week and is a service that a lot of companies do not provide. Delivery is between 8 am and 6 pm Monday to Friday and 8 am to 4 pm on Saturdays -Large and bulky items- Usually within 14 days these items are delivered to the room of you choice FREE and you are able to select either a morning (7.30 am to 1 pm) or afternoon (12 pm to 6 pm) slot on a day you choose. After ordering you will be contacted by their customer services department to arrange a suitable slot. -Bikes and large screen TVs- These are normally delivered between 7.30 am and 6 pm within 7 working days -Washing machines and other large kitchen appliances- These are normally delivered FREE within 10 working days however, they are unable to supply a specified time. There are also some express delivery and connection options which I will list below: - 5 day delivery and connection for washing machines and dishwashers for £24.50 - 5 day delivery and connection for refrigeration, tumble dryers and condenser dryers for £17.50 - 7 day delivery and connection for cookers £75 (gas and duel fuel) or £64.50 (electric)
------Argos Additions------ This is a relatively new section which catered for clothes and homeware items that were available for delivery only. However, this has now been taken over by another company and has been renamed Additions direct, so is no longer a part of the Argos group.
------My experiences------ I have used both Argos online and offline and have always found them to offer great service. The staff are always friendly and helpful, especially if purchasing a watch with an adjustable metal strap as they are able to remove links from the watch whilst you wait and for no charge. On a couple of occasions I have found products to be faulty (after a couple of weeks worth of use) and have never had any problems with getting an exchange or refund. I would strongly recommend using their website to check stock availability before going to your local store as it can save a wasted journey if they do not have it in stock. When using their website I have always found it to be very quick and easy to navigate. Also when I have requested delivery my orders have always turned up on the correct date and within the specified time, so I cannot fault them. I have only ever returned one item that I have bought online which was a fire place. I found that the standard of workmanship was not good enough and so as requested they came and removed it for me. Their prices also tend to be cheaper than most other retailers, especially those based on the high street. One piece of advice is that if you want to find out a bit more about a product note down the manufacturers model number and either look at the manufacturers website or pop down to the high street and have a look around as certainly with the electrical products many are supplied by other retailers.
------Finally------ Sorry that the review is so long but there was quite a lot to write and I wanted to include as much as I could. If you have any more ideas for improvement feel free to leave me a message.