Before Christmas, I visited my local Argos in Old Street to buy a colleague’s leaving gift and was so impressed by its recent transformation that I tweeted a picture. With iPads for ordering, pay and collect podiums, eBay pickup points and not a catalogue or small blue pen in sight, it was nothing like I remembered. The back-end had been turbocharged too as I queued for under a minute on a busy lunchtime.

I was reminded of this experience this week when reading an article about how brands got innovative over Christmas to engage customers with clever marketing. Argos featured heavily, with its Christmas wishlist app for kids to replace the Santa letter and a gift finder with recommendations based on age, gender and preference profiles.

My first thought visiting the new store was that it was a live version of RN’s ‘future of convenience retail’ 125th anniversary issue from July.

My second was what a great example it was of how a bricks and mortar business can reposition itself for a digital future. According to the company, 40% of sales are online, but customers come in store at some point in 90% of transactions.

My first thought visiting the new store was that it was a live version of RN’s ‘future of convenience retail’ 125th anniversary issue from July

Rather than sending customers straight to its website, it is offering a complementary service built around convenience and the things people like about shopping digitally. In-store wifi, for example, allows shoppers to use their own mobile device to place an order. People remain at the heart of the experience, though. Struggling to decide which of three queues to join, someone came to tell me before I had to ask.

Many others on the high street will be thinking along similar lines, and with their long opening hours, delivery infrastructure and existing customer relationships, convenience stores are a ready-made network that could prove extremely valuable in the near future.