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Struggling Argos pledges website overhaul before Christmas

Home Retail Group to invest in online channel following poor financial results

Argos is planning to refresh its website and develop new tablet applications in preparation for its peak trading period of Christmas.

The high street catalogue-based chain claims to be the second largest internet retailer in the UK, behind Amazon, with more than 430 million website visits last year. As well as the main website, the company has a web platform for mobile devices, and offers apps for the Apple iPhone and Android, to enable customers to order products on the move.

Argos announced the plans for a revamped website after its parent company Home Retail Group revealed a 60 percent fall in profits to £102 million for the year ended 3 March 2012.

The company plans to focus on its multichannel offering in a bid to reverse its fortunes.

Multichannel sales represented £1.9 billion, or 48 percent of sales, for Argos in the period. This was up two percent from the previous year.

Meanwhile, mobile commerce is a growing channel for the business, representing six percent of Argos' total sales in the fourth quarter, up from two percent last year.

Home Retail Group's other business, Homebase, has also seen growth in its multichannel sales offering, to four percent of total sales.

It reported a 15 percent increase in visitors to its website during the year and attributed greater awareness of the Homebase brand to social media activity on Facebook, Twitter and Youtube.

By improving its website, by including more 'how to' videos and refreshing its help and advice section, Homebase said that a third of its customers now browse online before they buy, and more than 18 percent do so using mobile devices.

Other web innovations included a launch of a 'create your own look' online decorating tool on the Homebase website in January 2012.

Argos and Homebase have also extended the number of products available only via the internet, with Argos now selling around 9,000 product lines and Homebase offering more than 15,000 product lines exclusively online.

In addition, Argos is continuing with a trial to sell third-party products via its website, from which it earns a commission on sales. Tesco.com also recently started operating a similar third-party marketplace model, which follows in the footsteps of Amazon.

Terry Duddy, chief executive of Home Retail Group, said: "We will continue to prioritise investment in our leading multichannel capabilities to shape the future of shopping for our customers, ensuring we bring unrivalled convenience and value to customers' everyday lives, whether shopping at home or on the move."

As part of its investment in technology, the company has also hired former president of internet at Best Buy John Walden as the new managing director for Argos, who brings with him a "wealth of multichannel retail and technology-related business experience", said Duddy.


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