ONE of the last bastions of the doorstep-thick glossy shopping catalogue is looking at phasing them out in reaction to the rising tide of online shoppers.

Argos have begun dropping their traditional take-home glossy catalogues in Scotland saying it was a "trial" at a "small number of stores" to test demand.

It came as shoppers complained about their disappearance at two Inverness stores, in Dumfries and in Cupar, Fife.

Argos owner Sainsbury's has been planning to digitise 60 Argos stores by March next year allowing customers to order via tablets instead of catalogues.


Argos catalogue (1973)


The move has led to predictions of the death of the bulky general retail catalogue.

Argos has for five years being toying with the idea of gradually reducing its reliance on the iconic paper catalogue, used by generations since its 1973 launch.

In 2012 a trial with a slimmed-down version of the 1,768-page paper book was due to start in 2013.

But two years ago John Walden, then chief executive of Home Retail Group, then owner of Argos,said he had been “surprised” by demand for the catalogue and that Argos had decided to make more available for customers in modernised stores.

They were still printing more than 20m copies of its catalogue every years across two seasonal versions.

One complaining Argos shopper, Diane Crawford said when after finding out that the Cupar store was a "catalogue free store" she was told by staff that all others would follow suit.


Argos catalogue cover (1982)

She says she was advised she could to go the Kirkcaldy shop, nearly 20 miles away.

"Sad times that everything is going online no wonder shops and towns are closing down," she said.

After Argos told her that she could still shop using the laminated catalogues in store or online, using the Argos website or app, she added: "Who has the time to browse in-store a whole catalogue? I know elderly people who don't have a PC to shop online or use apps.

"And that's not what we were told in Cupar today it was all stores that were going catalogue free. So Argos are only thinking of themselves cutting back on the cost of books and not your customers needs."

Leigh Sparks, Professor of Retail Studies at the University of Stirling believed Argos would still create catalogues, but that they would be much smaller, and more targeted to suit individuals tastes.

"I don't think it is the death of the catalogue, but the death of the big book," he said.

When TV shopping and the Internet first burst onto the scene, mail order catalogues such as Freemans and Grattan found their niche being invaded.


Argos catalogue (1996)

Most teamed their catalogue business up with their internet sites, making shopping from home accessible to everyone.

"There are still lots of catalogues around but they are much smaller and much more targeted. So I think the shift is to targeting more than anything else," said Mr Sparks.

"A lot of them are 20 to 30 pages, so it is going to be much more narrow and focused on the data they have on the consumer.

"Argos has been the reverse of that, being a massive general catalogue and at one time pretty much every household had a copy.

"This development doesn't surprise me so much because so much of their sales has shifted online and they have huge brand recognition there.

HeraldScotland: Argos will close or relocate at least 75 stores over the next five years

"As that has grown, it has put into question the catalogue, but for a business that is built on the catalogue, this is still a big shift.

"A lot of consumers use it has a reference book, and from that point of view, for a lot of consumers it is still quite valuable. "That is why they won't just say catalogues are gone completely. If they were, that would surprise me."

Sheena Hendry said it was "a shocker" that there were no catalogues to pick up from an Argos in Inverness In a message to Argos, she said she was disappointed that there appeared to be plans to phase them out.

She said: "Do you even realise how many hours of peace and quiet that catalogue gives to parents of young children who sit flicking through the toy section?"

She added: "Hope they realised that it's a mistake to get rid of them.

A spokeswoman for Argos, which was bought by Sainsbury's as part of its £1.4bn takeover of the Home Retail Group earlier this year, said: "As increasing numbers of customers choose to shop with us online, for a limited period we are testing demand for the take-home catalogues in a small number of stores.

"Catalogues continue to be available in the vast majority of our stores for customers who want them."

Argos did not respond to requests for information over which stores were involved in the trial.