Argos was established on 13 November 1972, by Richard Tompkins, the founder of the Green Shield Stamps scheme, who rebranded the existing Green Shield Stamps catalogue shops as Argos, before opening new Argos-branded shops later in the year. BAT Industries purchased the company in 1979, and in 1990, it was listed on the London Stock Exchange, where it became a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.
In April 1998, GUS plc bought the company, and it became part of Home Retail Group when GUS split in October 2006. In August 2013, it was estimated that 96% of the population of the United Kingdom was within 10 miles of an Argos branch.
In April 2016, Argos' parent Home Retail Group agreed to a £1.4 billion takeover by the UK supermarket chain Sainsbury's. Sainsbury's intend to close most if not all separate Argos shops and integrate them into its large Sainsbury's supermarkets. The acquisition was completed on 2 September 2016, and the business became part of a division named Sainsbury's Argos led by its own chief executive.
The company was founded by Richard Tompkins who had previously established Green Shield Stamps in the United Kingdom. Whilst on holiday in the Greek city of Argos, he came up with the idea that people could purchase goods from his "Green Shield Gift House" with cash rather than savings stamps. He rebranded the original Green Shield Stamps catalogue shops as Argos beginning in July 1973, the first purpose-built shop opening on the A28 Sturry Road, Canterbury in late 1973. Green Shield House was in Station Road, Edgware.
Argos was launched with thousands of staff, taking £1 million during a week in November. Argos was purchased by BAT Industries in 1979 for £32 million. In 1980, Argos opened its Elizabeth Duke jewellery counter (named after a director's wife) and by 1982, was the United Kingdom's fourth-biggest jewellery retailer. The Elizabeth Duke brand has since been phased out and replaced with the "Jewellery and Watches" brand.