Stat of the month: Categorical comeback - 1,778 - Number of pages in the Argos catalogue

Argos' new catalogue, its 68th, is 1,170 pages longer than Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - and almost as adored by the middle classes. The Telegraph recently recommended catalogue sources of 'chic gardening gear' and 'mediaeval and Renaissance books'. Meanwhile, Tory MP Michael Gove has just bought his perfect polo shirt from Boden, chattering-class catalogue-heaven. Catalogues were once the preserve of pinny-wearing retirees, but nowadays we're all too busy for the high street, and the internet lacks the armchair experience of thumbing through a catalogue, dreaming of a better-equipped life. Almost half Boden's UK sales come from catalogue shoppers seduced by evocative images. Argos shoppers spent £893m last quarter, and Littlewoods claims five million customers. Ironically, it was online retail that revived catalogue shopping. With easily adapted infrastructures already in place, catalogue firms leapt aboard the internet faster than you could say 'Twelve-piece plastic picnic set'. Even 'ethical' shopping firms have sidestepped environmental considerations to tempt us with printed pages full of images of basketweave and muesli.

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