Argos has unveiled its new Fast Track same-day delivery service that allows its customers across the UK to order items online and receive them within hours.

Senior management at the general merchandise retailer view the new offering as a key competitive tool during the forthcoming Christmas period, with shoppers able to choose from 20,000 products to be delivered in one of four same-day delivery slots, up to 10pm.

The delivery slots are 7am-10am, 10am-1pm, 2pm-6pm and 7pm-10pm, and the cost to shoppers is £3.95. Customers can order by 6pm to get an item delivered by 10pm the same day, while orders placed before midnight will be delivered between 7am-10am, or 10am–1pm the following day.

Also under the Fast Track service is a new national free-of-charge 60-second in-store collection option, which is available across the retailer's 800-strong store network. Online customers will be able to see clearly which products can be 'Fast Track-ed', before collecting their items at dedicated Fast Track Collection counters for those who have pre-paid.

John Walden, CEO of Argos's parent company Home Retail Group, said the combination of fulfilment services now being offered "will be an enormous help to customers this Christmas and make seasonal shopping speedier and easier than ever before".

"Argos led the way with click & collect 15 years ago – and customers can continue to shop with us in the traditional ways if they choose to," he added.

"But we believe Fast Track is the next big innovation and brings shopping into the digital age for customers, allowing them to get up to 20,000 products in their hands faster than ever before. No other retailer can offer the breadth of products immediately or at that speed."

The store-based Fast Track service has reportedly led to the creation of nearly 3,300 driver jobs, of which up to 1,000 are currently being recruited for the festive season. The new team members are employed directly by Argos.

Argos says its new delivery service has created over 3,000 jobs

Argos's announcement comes after department store group House of Fraser announced on Monday that it was introducing two new premium next-day delivery options to add to its list fulfilment options.

These moves by two of the UK's largest retailers are indicative of customer-service-oriented landscape that is forming, driven by customers who appear more demanding than they have ever been.

Bryan Roberts, senior vice president and knowledge officer for EMEA at Kantar Retail, commented: "Delivery has emerged as one of the key battlegrounds for UK retailers, as customers increasingly look for multiple delivery slots that allow them to shop how and when they want on the same day.

"In terms of customers being able to order online as late as 6pm and receive products on their doorstep that evening, Argos is showing its rivals a clean pair of heels with this new speedy nationwide service. While having the right offer at the right price will be crucial as ever this Christmas, there will also be a sprint finish on the nation's roads to deliver the goods the same or next day."