The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Argos Is Christmas …

When I was younger, I discovered the ‘Argos’ catalogue.

It was at my Grandparents house and it was a bloody revelation.

For those who don’t know what Argos is, imagine before Amazon.

A place where you can buy a huge array of products, all of which were featured in an annual catalogue which you could take home and peruse at your leisure.

[It’s also famous for little pens – now pencils – that you would have to use to fill in the forms to get the products when you went into the store. Pens/pencils that I would say everyone in England has ended up keeping at some point in their lives]

But for me, it only had 2 uses …

1. To get a glimpse at the future of technology.

2. To choose what I really, really wanted for my birthday/christmas.

Every time I visited my grandparents, I would run to where they kept the Argos catalogue and spend hours going through all the pages, gazing lovingly at digital watches, calculators, the emergence of hand held ‘electronic’ games and – eventually – computers.

Every year the catalogue came out, I would be see the advances of tech in front of my eyes.

But more than that, for the right money – I could have it.

Of course I – nor my parents – had the right money except maybe at Christmas, but a boy could dream … and boy did I.

I still remember the excitement the first time I saw Astro Wars … a handheld version of the video game Galaxian

It was like the impossible dream.

A full sized video game shrunk into a small box.

What sort of weird wizardry was this???

I still remember how a bunch of us at school saw it at the same time and we all knew it was the ‘must have’ present for the year.

I was incredibly lucky to get it that year … and while it was a bit crap, I still utterly loved it because to me, that was cutting edge tech.

[As an aside, I just discovered it cost £28 in 1980 – the equivalent of £100 today, so I am utterly gobsmacked I got it given my parents would have had to have saved up for months to afford that. So thank you Mum and Dad, I never realized it was that pricey]

Anyway, the reason I say all this is that Argos have recently digitized all their old catalogues.

And while you may ask yourself, “why?” and “why would anyone care?” you’d be wrong … because if you’re a person of a certain age, the Argos catalogue was not a book of products available for purchase, it was a place of imagination and possibilities and while the stuff inside the late 70’s/early 80’s catalogues are full of the sort of tat even a ‘Everything for £1’ store, would turn their noses up at, looking through them all again, I can honestly say it ignited the excitement I had back then.


And yes, that means I really have spent hours trawling through them all.


And what’s more, I don’t care how sad that makes me.

It was a magical journey down nostalgia lane.

More specifically, nostalgia that was specific to my life, not just everyone else’s.

America may have had Disneyland.

But us kids in Britain had the Argos catalogue.

You can explore the history of 40+ English imaginations, here and you can see why I think the Argos Christmas campaign – which links to the nostalgia theme of the old catalogues – is already the winner of 2019, below.

12 Comments so far
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This is the 2nd post in 2 days that I agree with what you’ve written. The only thing saving me from a meltdown is I’ve never heard of Argos and it sounds like a bad version of Amazon. Doesn’t surprise me you love it. Good ad too. Fresher take on Christmas especially for old men from Nottingham.

Comment by Bazza

It is exactly that Baz and that’s what makes it great.

Comment by George

Yes. And what’s your point Baz? Ha.

Comment by Rob

I love this post Robert. I had Astro Wars as well, except mine was a hand me down from my older brother. It was a bit rubbish when compared to the full sized arcade equivalent but I still played it so much my parents had to lock it away at night.

Your post ignited some great memories for me but the news Argos has put their old books online is brilliant. A low-fi move of digital excellence. Love the spot too. I’m more sentimental for home than I’ve been in years and I’m now going to search the house for one of their pens. As you say, I must have one somewhere.

Comment by George

Between this commentary and Robert’s post, you have summed up why this is my choice for the winner of Christmas campaigns 2019. I do appreciate the new John Lewis spot, but this is a welcome change to the festive format.

Comment by Lee Hill

By a country mile.

Comment by Rob

Low-fi digital excellence. Love it.

And I guarantee you’ll find a pen somewhere. It’s like every house of the 70s having an acoustic guitar somewhere in a corner.

Comment by Rob

I can see you as a teenager, pouring over the pages to see which piece of technology you wanted to dream of owning. I don’t know the brand but I like the ad and the idea of putting the old catalogues online is excellent. It shouldn’t work but it does.

Comment by Pete

Ths week’s ghostwriter is rather good. And I empathise completely with the realization of what presents actually cost.

Comment by John

Love this post, love the campaign – my kids actually use the Argos catalogue and Smyths catalogues now.

Comment by Northern

100% agree on this – putting the catalogues online is a complete stroke of genius. I managed to find the Transformer I got for Christmas in about 1988!

Maybe it only works if you’re, ahem, a certain age. But that’s probably the key present-buying demographic anyway!

Comment by David

argos is still above your fucking level campbell.

Comment by andy@cynic

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