LONDON: Argos, the catalogue and general merchandise retailer, has joined the highly competitive UK tablet market by launching its own-brand device aimed at children and families in the run-up to Christmas.

Coming just two weeks after retail giant Tesco launched its own tablet, the £99 Argos MyTablet is also set to compete with other budget devices like Amazon's Kindle Fire, Google's Nexus 7 and Apple's iPad mini, the BBC reported.

The 7-inch device will come pre-loaded with apps that will allow users to shop online with Argos, which confirmed to the Financial Times that its new tablet was designed to increase footfall to its stores.

Joanne Savage, head of own-brand products at Argos, said the company was already a destination for tablet-buyers but thought the launch of its own brand would help "to extend the category out to different Argos customers".

The move also represents the latest bid by Argos to stem its declining market share to online retailers, such as Amazon, and signals the company's intention to move from a catalogue-led to a digitally-led business.

"The price of tablets has dropped to the point where tablets are becoming customer acquisition tools," said Benedict Evans, mobile analyst at Enders Analysis.

"Retailers are thinking about how they can use it to build their business," he added.

The UK tablet market has grown exponentially over the past three years from an almost standing start to over 19m current users, according to estimates from eMarketer.

Meanwhile, analysts IDC expects 230m tablets to be shipped to the global market in 2013 and the market to grow by 79% over the next five years.

Data sourced from BBC, Financial Times; additional content by Warc staff