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RIP Argos Catalogue: We Calculated How Big Amazon’s Would Be

As Argos axe their iconic catalogue in 2021 after 49 years, we researched what an Amazon equivalent catalogue would be like.

We found that one collecting every item Amazon sell directly would contain over 850k pages, weigh 1,311.7kg and take 86 trees to print one copy.

When the Bible is the only book in more British homes, it’s safe to say that the Argos catalogue cemented itself as an iconic part of the UK’s culture.

As comedian Bill Bailey called it, the “laminated book of dreams” has had more than one billion copies printed since its launch in 1972.

During the second world war, injured American soldiers were sent even Sears catalogues to remind them of their home and what awaits them on their return; that is the power of catalogue shopping. 

However, as of January 2021, Argos are have stopped printing copies of the catalogue and have officially transitioned to digital screens in every branch across the country.

Mark Given, chief marketing officer of Argos and Sainsburys, has cited a change in customers tastes and a shift to online shopping as justification. 



Jack Bird of Direct Packaging Solutions, had the following  to say:

“For low-income families, the Argos catalogue was like a form of wish-fulfilment; dog-earing every page and circling every other product whether you could afford them or not.

This is just another example of the transition from the physical and in-store to the digital and online”.

…and when you think about online shopping, only one name comes to mind – Amazon. Similar to Argos, they sell everything a home may (or may not) need. While you can sell products yourself on Amazon, much of their revenue comes from what they sell directly themselves.

So, we imagined what the Amazon version of the Argos catalogue would look like.

What we found (and how we found it):

To work out how big it would be, we looked at old Argos catalogues (which you can find here) and calculated that there were 14 items on average per page in the catalogue. Using data from Big Commerce, we knew that Amazon directly sells approximately 12,100,000 products.

By simply dividing the number of products by the number of items per average page, we could extrapolate that to find the following data:

The number of pages it would have.
0 kg
How much it would weigh.
The amount of trees needed to print a single copy.
0 hours
How long it would take you to fold over the corner of every page.

To give you an idea of how smalltime Amazon makes Argos look, the Argos catalogue would typically be between 600 and 1,000 pages, compared to the 850,000+ pages that would be needed for the Amazon version. That’s more pages than the entire Harry Potter series – multiplied by 200! A single Amazon catalogue would weigh more than some cars. Did you always dog-ear pages with the Christmas presents you wanted on? You’d be able to binge Game of Thrones three times before you finished folding a corner of every page!

We even designed a visual of what the Amazon version could look like, which you can see below. A catalogue with over 800,000 pages would be taller than some buildings though, so we imagined this one as being a slimmer winter edition. 

Jack Bird from Direct Packaging Solutions said:

“I was shocked when we completed the research and found how big the Amazon catalogue would be compared to the original Argos one.

Once one of the nations biggest shops, Argos seem like a family-ran local market in comparison. It goes to show how dominant Amazon has become.“

A glimpse at what the theoretical Amazon catalogue could look like.

After Argos were purchased by Sainsbury’s in 2016, they began merging their branches into larger Sainsbury’s stores. Here, they operate with a minimal shop floor and a miniature warehouse behind the counter, truly streamlined for the click-and-collect service they now offer.

We believe that more and more shops in the future will operate this way, a la Screwfix and Toolstation; prioritising online transactions, minimising real estate and maximising efficiency.

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Please attribute Direct Packaging Solutions if you cover this story at all. You can view a hi-res version of the Amazon catalogue we created here and old issues of the Argos catalogue and page grabs are available at Retrohash.

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