The Lost Precinct Advent Calendar – #1: Index Catalogue Shop

12,000 items and all I wanted was a Furby

I must begin by saying that in many literary works, the Index is always at the back of the book. Not so in the case of our first Advent Calendar window. For a start, many a child’s Christmas present ideas would have been influenced by a flick through the catalogue. Hence Index being the first window.

I remember the Index stores being cleaner and more cheerful than Argos’ shops. Their stores had brighter fittings, which explains why Argos borrowed a number of ideas from Littlewoods’ chain.

The Ad of Christmas Past

“Imagine being able to order over 12,000 items…” bellowed the voiceover man. Back in 1993, being able to have such choice in the pre-broadband era was a big deal. Our advert portrays Index as being an accessible catalogue shop. One where you could order your stuff over the telephone. Nice!

Not only that, the idea of ordering stuff over the ‘phone and paying for your goods with a credit or debit card. Yes, none of that 38 weeks at £1.50 a week malarkey and the interest they bump on top of that. Plus, the fact you could also collect your goods from an Index store.

The Shop of Christmas Past

Speaking of 38 weeks at £1.50 a week, Index was the protege of Littlewoods. As well as its department stores, Sir John Moores’ company was a massive player in catalogue shopping alongside Great Universal Stores. Therefore, having seen Argos’ efforts take off since 1973, a bit of ‘me tooism’ could have been Littlewoods’ approach.

Not quite. A natural precursor to Index could lie in Littlewoods’ Tele-Bingo programme on Swindon Cable (1986). It was a British equivalent to the American shopping channels with continuity and bingo, with prizes picked up from Littlewoods’ Swindon store. Plus, the joy of making your purchases over the ‘phone. Furthermore, some branches of Littlewoods also had Index counters (Rochdale’s branch being one example).

Sadly, the adventure of catalogue shops wasn’t to be for Littlewoods’ Index. Their stores were sold to arch rival Argos – part of the Great Universal Stores company (later Home Retail Group).

S.V., 01 December 2015.

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