Multichannel retailer Argos has been hit by technology glitches affecting its new-model digital stores in its peak trading period.

Customers told Retail Week they had reserved goods online only to turn up at stores which were not officially open.

Argos has been aiming to fulfil orders from those stores, despite being shut for refurbishment, and shoppers have complained of problems ranging from availability to having to pay in cash.

Queues have been reported outside at least two of the new-style stores – in London’s Old Street and Chancery Lane. At the Old Street store yesterday staff were completing transactions outside the store because shoppers were not allowed in. Some consumers have taken to social networking site Twitter to vent their frustration.

One Chancery Lane shopper told Retail Week: “When I went to the store there was a very large queue.

“One of the staff members told me they were trialing a new digital system and it had crashed and wasn’t working. They also then told me that they could only let one customer in as one came out, so the wait for me ended up to be around 45 minutes.”

The employee told the shopper that the online stock system was not working and items were being shown as in-stock which were not available.

“Everyone had to have their reservation numbers checked before they could join the queue and anyone who was hoping to browse and buy something today was told to come back when the store is officially open,” the shopper said.

Such problems threaten to be an embarrassment for Argos, which previewed its digital stores last month.

The shops are designed to position Argos to take advantage of the rise of multichannel commerce and feature innovations such as the replacement of the traditional paper catalogue with web browsers, fast collection points and a hub-and-spoke distribution model enabling rapid supply of stock.

An Argos spokesman said: “As announced two weeks ago, at a very early press preview, we plan to open five digital concept stores by Christmas. We are on schedule to do that.

“In the meantime we are testing systems purely for these five stores prior to opening, which are totally ring-fenced from the remaining 732 stores throughout the UK. As planned, we are offering a very limited service to the customers of those stores.”