Great Universal Stores (GUS), owner of Argos, has acquired web design agency Reality Group for £35m to establish its own third-party services and ecommerce group.
The £10m cash, £25m stock deal for Reality is the spearhead of GUS's plans to deliver web design, customer service and delivery for businesses hoping to offer online shopping.
GUS includes its own home shopping operation, plus catalogue retailer Argos and financial information company Experian.
John Peace, chief executive at GUS, said: "When we launched our strategic review in January this year, one of our key priorities was to realign GUS's assets to take advantage of new growth markets."
"Our Third Party Services division, branded Reality, directly meets growing demand from business clients, and our other initiatives will ensure that we are well placed to grow in the new commercial environment as our customers seek to transact an increasing level of business through ecommerce."
The company claims to have 50 external clients already, giving it an advantage over rival N Brown, which launched Zendor, a similar third-party ecommerce operation, last October.
GUS has come under fire from industry pundits for failing to impress when it comes to ecommerce. The company, which only four years ago was an award winner in the field with its original GUS site, has been criticised following more aggressive approaches from competitors, and embarrassments in its own operations, especially with its flagship Argos site.
The Argos site's howlers include the advertising of a £300 TV for £3, causing a rush of orders that the retailer refused to honour, and the site being unable to cope with the increased volume of traffic caused by shoppers looking for Christmas bargains.
With a £35m slice of web group Reality, however, it appears that GUS is determined to earn bouquets rather than brickbats for its future ecommerce business operations.
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