Clicking and Collecting

In this feature from PLMALive! Bob Vosburgh reports on the rise of “click & collect.”

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Clicking and Collecting

Supermarkets for years have struggled with the question of how to fulfill orders that come from online shoppers.  The grocery channel has lagged behind others like apparel and electronics in finding a strategy that’s both workable and profitable.

Food stores in the U.S. may have finally hit upon a solution that allows them to utilize their bricks-and-mortar strengths while, at the same time, creating a model for convenience and efficiency.

The concept is called “click and collect,” and it is being tested by a number of supermarkets. Here, consumers submit their shopping lists online. The customer’s preferred store fills those orders and holds them for pick-up later at a time specified by the shopper. In some cases, the customer retrieves the order inside the store; in others, the retailer includes a drive-thru window or curbside delivery right to the person’s vehicle.

That’s exactly what Walmart is testing with its Pickup Grocery service. The experimental station just outside of the retailer’s Bentonville, Arkansas headquarters opened earlier this year. Officials say it can fulfill a customer’s order in as little as two hours.

Kroger is testing its own version after first trying it out with employees. This summer, the retailer announced it was opening the option up to shoppers at a single store in Ohio, with more to be added as the logistics are worked out. Kroger’s drive-up service is free for the first three orders, before a 4-95 fee kicks in.

Delhaize Group’s Hannaford Bros. and independent operator Meijer are also trying out the idea. Hannaford currently operates Hannaford to Go at 16 stores throughout the Northeast, offering same-day pickup for virtually every item in the store. The first order is free, followed by a fee of no more than 5-dollars, depending on the pickup time and store location.

In Michigan, Meijer Curbside launched at a single store this past April. Specially trained store associates bring orders out to a customer’s car between the hours of 7-am and 9-pm. More than 23-Thousand grocery and general merchandise items are currently available for this service, which carries a 4-95 fee.

There’s even a lone operator in Olathe, Kansas that’s garnered rave reviews by promising totally hassle-free shopping. Zoomin Market isn’t even a walk-in store. It’s more like a drive-in fulfillment center in the center of town. Customers pull into parking stalls where their orders are brought out to them. Payment is only by credit card, so there’s no fumbling with cash in the driver’s seat. Right now the operation carries a limited number of products and SKUs, but there are plans to expand the selection as demand grows.

The U.S. retailers are taking a page from playbooks of their counterparts in France and Britain, where click-and-collect is already well-established. European supermarkets have already worked through many of the challenges that click-and-collect presents, such as the cost of warehouse vs. in-store picking, and the distribution of labor associated with in-store picking.

In France, for instance, every big retailer offers click and collect. Right now, there are an estimated 32-Hundred such locations throughout the country. Britain’s largest grocer, Tesco, has expanded click and collect to some 400 locations. And it’s currently trying out the idea of remote, non-store, click and collect pickup spots at a school, in a car park and at a university.

U.S. supermarkets have a long way to go before the click-n-collect model becomes the norm… but all indications are that, so far, they’ve successfully taken their first steps. If nothing else, they’ve been able to wean food shoppers off the idea of home delivery — often the most complex and costly part of the online retail model.

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Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.