eBay Partners with Argos to Save the British High Street

eBay president Devin Wenig has appeared in London to announce a click and collect trial with Argos, starting with 50 eBay merchants, giving consumers the option to pick up their purchases from 150 of the retailers high street stores.

A global first, the service will be rolled out in more countries if the idea takes off. Wenig called it a ‘game changing’ service for eBay sellers. “This is great news for our merchants, giving them unparalleled access to consumers and the benefit of a great high street presence. For eBay, it means we’re one step closer to delivering a seamless shopping experience across all channels.”

100m square feet of empty real estate

So what’s in it for Argos? The high street stalwart began repositioning itself as a digital-led business in October last year, and John Walden, MD at Argos, said that the company is already making £30m in online sales. They expect that to grow between 10 and 20 per cent a year for the foreseeable future, with smartphones and tablets increasingly taking a share. Meanwhile, the company owns 600m square feet of retail space – with 100m of that lying empty.

“With continued innovation of devices, improved connection speeds and the proliferation of apps, the mobile part of this business will grow much faster and become very meaningful,” he said. “Retailers online are increasingly competing on getting products to customers faster and getting it there cheaper – faster and free. Rather than stores being a disadvantage – we see this as a strategic advantage in the digital world.”
Hub and spoke
He said that there are very few retailers in the UK that move more non-food products as efficiently as Argos can on a daily basis. “Use of our stores in a hub and spoke network will allow us to get even more products into local areas for fast fulfilment. We want to ensure we have a lean and flexible cost base so we will be taking shorter leases on stores to respond to changing conditions.

He also spoke about the wider economic sitaution and its effect on shoppers. “The prolific erosion of real wages in the UK and real spending power has impacted on consumer spend. Buying was roughly flat from the year before and until real wages start to change –we’re not sure we’ll see any changes.”

eBay Now

eBay’s one-hour delivery service is also coming to the EU, starting with London ‘early in the New Year. The app, which launched last October in San Fran, enables people to find, order, buy and get an eBay purchase in under an hour. It will be interesting to see if Argos plays a part in this speedy distribution service.

Wenig closed the presentation with a promise that more ‘exciting’ changes are on the way from what he called the ‘new eBay’. “This is a new world that will change global commerce forever, a $10trn market that is going to be turned on its head in the next two years. Our business has already changed so much –  and we’re loooking forward to the role we’re going to play.”