Catalogue store group Argos shifted 2 million units during its three-for-two toy promotion a fortnight ago, staged to make an early play for Christmas sales.

The seven-day promotion, which had never been run before at that time, reflected the fact that “a lot of our customers start thinking about Christmas as soon as the schools go back”, said marketing director Karen MacLachlan.

This week Argos launched the first phase of its Christmas advertising campaign with a Bing Crosby-themed advert airing tonight supporting the launch of its seasonal gift guide.

Argos has also launched a dedicated internet microsite created by creative agency Meteorite at,which includes a Christmas “wish list” service for children - similar to a wedding list service - designed to reinforce the retailer’s “Number 1 for toys” positioning.

The first Christmas ad will be followed later by two more, themed around the Three Kings, which emphasise how shopping at Argos “makes life easier”.

MacLachlan said the retailer is promoting the convenience of its shopping options as it overhauls stores to make them easier to shop and increases self-service options (see box).

Argos parent Home Retail reports interim results on Wednesday.

Cash payment kiosks among store innovations

Argos is installing cash payment kiosks in stores alongside card machines to enable more customer self-service and to avoid making shoppers paying by cash feel inferior.

Managing director Sara Weller said the cash kiosks will be rolled out to 45 stores this year and ultimately to about 100 where there is a high cash sales participation and a danger that customers unable or unwilling to use card machines “felt like second class citizens”.

Weller showed off the kiosks at Argos’s new-model store in Beckton, east London, representative of a range of innovations being introduced in shops to enhance the customer journey, modernise the look, improve convenience and make better use of displays.

Other changes include an interactive display of products such as iPads, and more opportunities for customers to make impulse buys, such as toys, on shelves.

So far, 79 stores have been refurbished like Beckton.