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‘Go systems issues’…it’s the Friday Blog!

Published on: 13th November 2015

A few weeks ago, I wrote about a series of ongoing problems which Argos was facing, which were being attributed by the company to ‘systems issues.’ Until then, it was only suppliers who were aware of the situation. Last week it was the consumers’ turn to discover the scale of the challenge which Argos is facing in transforming its business into the digital arena. It had been announced that Argos was re-introducing its popular ‘3 for 2’ promotion last Friday, but customers logging on to the website early in the morning were faced with the message ‘Sorry, this offer has already closed.’

Things didn’t get any better: according to reports, the website was down for most of the weekend, with some customers claiming that money had been taken from their account whilst Argos was denying that an order had been placed. Customer service lines quickly became swamped, with thousands of people were left in limbo, not knowing if they were going to receive their order or not. The Daily Mail called it a ‘meltdown’, and the whole thing was blamed on – you guessed it – ‘a systems error.’ I’m certainly not without sympathy for their plight: glitches happen in the digital arena, and I’m sure we all know how frustrating it can be when things go wrong, especially at such a crucial moment. But nevertheless, maybe Argos shouldn’t throw away its stash of little pencils and bits of paper just yet.

And good luck to Asda, which announced this week that it would be limiting its Black Friday activity to its online channel. I think we can all agree that it is eminently sensible for them to avoid last year’s unseemly in-store scenes, but Argos has perhaps highlighted some of the pitfalls that Asda could be about to face.

The mild weather shows little sign of taking a turn for the worse, much to the chagrin of everyone in the toy market. Not so much “it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas,” more “it’s beginning to look a little bit autumnal.” It’s not just retailers that are hoping for a big change in the weather: I gather that broadcast viewing figures are tracking way below the anticipated levels, to the extent that there are some interesting conversations apparently going on between TV sales teams and advertisers, and in some cases money is even being returned due to an inability to fulfil commitments. The weather has allegedly been cited as a likely reason behind the shortfall in viewing figures, so it will be worth keeping an eye on – there may even be those who suggest that, rather than being a weather-related situation, the long-feared migration of viewers from broadcast channels to other mediums has just reached a new tipping point.

Despite the mild weather, there are still plenty of signs that Christmas is rapidly approaching. Smyths has just announced that it will be opening its stores every Monday to Friday evening until 11 PM until 23rd December, a bold gambit in a bid to attract additional shoppers. And, of course, it wouldn’t be Christmas without the John Lewis Christmas ad. Last year’s ad resulted in a surge in interest in Penguins, so this year’s ad had a lot to live up to. There was no need to worry: I was soon contacted by a number of retailers and suppliers excited about the prospects for science and moon-related items. Brainstorm has already reported a healthy increase in demand for its Moon Globe, while Toytown Seaford’s Ginette McGee pointed out that not only was the girl not wearing pink or dressed as a fairy, but more importantly the ad represents a major retailer promoting the fact that science toys are for girls as well as boys. Maybe John Lewis just had a greater impact on the ‘gender’ debate than a whole host of pressure groups could ever hope to achieve (i.e. they just made it look cool for girls to play with science toys, rather than turning it into a philosophical debate).

I was sad to hear that Rudolf Stein appears to have reached the end of the road: I gather the company is on the verge of appointing a liquidator to wind up the company.
Finally, on a more positive note, I’m not usually one to plaster pictures of myself over social media, but I’ll make an exception just this once. Except, it’s not really a picture of me, rather a 3D model which Nickelodeon kindly facilitated through its partnership with Asda on the 3DME initiative. I’ll be honest, I was initially a bit sceptical: having seen some previous models that have come out of 3D printers, my expectations were modest. But the final result is uncanny: not perfect (unless I really do have one pointy ear like Spock and a slight blue tinge to my hair), but spookily accurate – to the degree that I will be spending a lot more time in our office gym over the coming weeks. So here I am in all my glory, along with my good friend Leonardo the Turtle (with the addition of my Golden Teddy for scale). Maybe the 3D Printer Revolution – of which I have previously remained staunchly unconvinced – is far closer than I imagined.

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