eBay and Argos strike ‘click and collect’ deal

Arjun Kharpal, special to
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Online retail giant eBay has announced a "click and collect" tie-up with British retailer Argos as the U.K.'s stores look to increase their online business and e-retailers try to gain a foothold on main street.

Shoppers will be able to buy items from at least 50 merchants on eBay and pick them up from 150 Argos stores across the UK.

The pilot scheme is seen as part of growing trend of e-commerce businesses trying to have a presence in towns and shopping areas.

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Amazon offers a service where consumers can buy a product online and pick it up at one of the company's "lockers" dotted around the country. Argos is the UK's largest high street retailer online and has 735 stores around the country.

Click-and-collect deals give consumers more control over deliveries and help them avoid the inconvenience of missing a parcel, according to analysts.

"It gives Argos access to the market place format and makes them more of a destination. And for eBay it gives them that flexibility over delivery which is becoming more and more important for consumers," Matt Piner, research director at retail research firm Conlumino told CNBC.

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Argos's click and collect service has been expanding since it was launched in 2000 and accounts for a third of the company's business, John Walden, managing director at Argos said in a statement.

The retailer also cites research from the Econsultancy Online Shopping Survey showing that 40% of UK shoppers used some form of click and collect service over Christmas 2012.

One analyst said Argos would receive "spin-off benefits" from the eBay deal as more shoppers enter their stores.

"The hoped for upside for Argos would be increased shopper numbers in their stores and incremental spending by consumers as they visit the physical shops," Bryan Roberts, retail analyst at Kantar Retail told CNBC.

Britain's high streets and town centers are being left deserted by people preferring to shop online rather than take a trip to their local stores.

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The average shop vacancy rate in the top 650 town centers was 14.1 percent, according to the Local Data Company, a retail data analyst firm.

Piner said that deals similar to the eBay and Argos tie-up will be a "big growth area", but may not be enough to improve the fortunes of the UK's shopping centers.

"If people are buying online and only using stores for collection, that doesn't necessarily lend itself to the high street because out of town stores and retail parks, are more convenient place for picking things up," Piner told CNBC.

"If they are to compete, high streets need to offer convenience but also be different and make people use them for other reasons."