Argos catalogue: Life lessons from the ‘book of dreams’

“No end to the horror.” “Christmas cancelled.”

That’s how millennials and boomers have been lamenting the loss of the Argos catalogue. One Twitter user even wrote that it was his entire childhood.

But what is the so-called “book of dreams” and why are people getting worked up about it?

What is an Argos catalogue? A brief history lesson

By John Hand

Image copyright Argos
Image caption One of the more bizarre items was the somewhat legendary alarm-clock-cum-tea-maker, the Teasmade

Twice a year word went round that the new Argos catalogue was out – a big moment for anyone who grew up or shopped in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s.

This was a time when the nearest thing to Amazon was a hefty book crammed full of pictures, enticing words and equally enticing prices. Drop it down on the kitchen table and it created a louder thump than the phone directory.

Jewellery always seemed to be at the front but younger readers knew the toys and fun household gadgets were towards the back. Toys and games advertised on the TV in the run-up to Christmas were cross-referenced in the Argos catalogue and parents were pestered. And how many adults left hopeful hints by leaving it open on the cassette-player page?

Argos stores themselves were a mind-blowing mystery. Using the kind of cheap plastic pen that even bookmakers might turn their nose up at, customers filled in an unfathomably long code number on a slip of paper, negotiated their way past the tills, then went to the shop counter to wait as your item was sent up from the stockroom – a place that must have had Tardis-like dimensions to hold such vast quantities of stock.

Within minutes, you were away. There was no need to wait in all day for a parcel or rate your seller. The only action required was to grab yet another copy of the famed catalogue to take home, to start the process again.

Now that you’ve got your head around the idea, here are six things people say they gained from the Argos catalogue – the memories they still cherish, and the life lessons learned.

1. The spirit of Christmas

Image copyright Argos

Every family has its festive traditions, and for many the Argos catalogue was a massive part of the build-up to the most wonderful time of the year.

2. Childhood memories

Image copyright Argos
Image caption Hostess trolleys, complete with heated trays, were the envy of many a 70s home

The Argos catalogue was a defining feature of some people’s formative years, all year round.

3. Daring to dream

Image copyright Argos
Image caption Remember when the only decisions you had to make were which duvet sets to ask for?

The Argos catalogue taught generations of children to aim high, even if those aspirations weren’t particularly realistic.

4. Coping with rejection

Image copyright Argos
Image caption When it came to toys, you name it, Argos had it – from Furbies to Mr Frosty and Care Bears to Barbies

Others seem to think it helped them manage their expectations, especially when Father Christmas didn’t show up with the goods or the Argos branch was out of stock. Turns out Mr Frosty was a sore subject.

5. Hard work and perseverance

Image copyright Argos
Image caption Remember the sports section? 90s home workouts were some of the best

Others think it taught them the value of good old-fashioned graft – and a sense of accomplishment.

6. Broadening horizons

Image copyright Argos
Image caption One of the many weird and wonderful things you never knew you needed until you opened a catalogue: A tiny wall clock mounted on a large picture of Roman architecture in the city of Chester (left)

And for some, it was far more than just a book or even a festive tradition – it helped them think outside the box. From nurturing their creativity…

… to deepening their understanding of the human experience.

RIP, Argos catalogue.