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Grocers go mobile

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NEW YORK — Food retailers continue to bolster their grocery pickup and delivery capabilities as a growing proportion of shoppers buy at least some of their food online. Kroger Co., Walmart, Giant Food, Wakefern Food Corp. and Weis Markets Inc. were among the food retailers announcing grocery fulfillment-related developments in July.

Kroger chief executive officer Rodney McMullen and Ocado Group CEO Tim Steiner were among the dignitaries attending a July 24 groundbreaking ceremony for a customer fulfillment center in Groveland, Fla. Scheduled to open in 2021, the automated center will be the second of 20 that Kroger and Ocado plan to build in the United States to enhance Kroger’s home delivery capabilities. The Groveland center also represents Kroger’s first foray into the Sunshine State.

“Kroger is excited to enter Florida to redefine the customer experience through our industry-leading partnership with Ocado,” McMullen said. “There’s a substantial demand for Kroger products and services in the state, and we’re eager to offer a new and seamless experience through the customer fulfillment center, leveraging advanced robotics technology and creative solutions to provide customers with anything, anytime, anywhere.”

Kroger and U.K.-based Ocado are already constructing their first customer fulfillment center, in Monroe, Ohio.

Next up after Groveland will be centers in Forest Park, Ga. (see related story on page 6), and a yet-to-be-named city in the Mid-Atlantic region. Kroger expects the investment in online ordering technology, robotic fulfillment and delivery logistics to put the chain in a position to offer customers the seamless shopping environment they increasingly expect from the supermarket retailer.

Walmart, meanwhile, opened a prototype grocery pickup facility on July 10 in Lincolnwood, Ill. The 42,000-square-foot building is stocked with groceries, pet supplies, health and wellness items, and products used for daily life like diapers, household cleaners and office supplies.

After selecting their items from the Walmart Grocery site or app, shoppers can either arrive at the store, where their merchandise is loaded into their vehicle, or choose to have it delivered. Customers must give at least three hours’ notice to get an order filled, and they are not permitted to enter the store. Orders have to total at least $30. Starting September 15, customers picking up their orders will pay a $4.95 fee. Deliveries will cost either $7.95 or $9.95, depending on the time of the day.

“The Lincolnwood Walmart Pickup Point gives busy customers the ability to shop how, when and where they want, without having to leave their cars or homes,” Nicole Olson, the facility’s manager, said in a statement.

Giant Food last month launched Giant Pickup, allowing shoppers who order online to retrieve their groceries at a Giant Food store without having to leave their vehicle. The service is expected to be available at 100 stores in Washington D.C.; Maryland; Virginia; and Delaware by year’s end.

“Whether on the way home from work, heading to a summer BBQ or just getting the weekly grocery shopping done all that much faster, this really is all about giving our shoppers tools to let them shop however they prefer,” said Gordon Reid, president of Giant Food, in a statement.

Shoppers who use the service can opt to pick up their groceries four hours or more after ordering them, or select a window for next-day pickup. Thousands of items, including favorite local brands and organic selections, are available through Giant Pickup at everyday-low prices, the company said. Giant Pickup accepts digital coupons that can be loaded and redeemed online.

The service has the same quality and freshness guarantee as stores — if an item falls short in any way, Giant Food promises to replace it and refund the customer’s money.

Wakefern last month said it is partnering with Takeoff Technologies on an automated warehouse in Clifton, N.J., to enhance the retailer’s ShopRite from Home digital shopping program. Takeoff offers fulfillment capabilities using robots and AI-enabled technology to shorten the amount of time it takes to process individual customer orders.

Weis Markets announced that it has extended its Weis 2 Go online ordering service with pickup and delivery options to another 61 stores, bringing the service to 150 stores across the chain’s seven-state footprint in the eastern United States.


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