A handful of grocery retailers have flipped some locations into so-called dark stores to handle the crush of online orders, but it remains to be seen how widespread the practice will become or how much the trend will stick after the coronavirus threat dies down. Retailers include Amazon/Whole Foods, Kroger, Giant Eagle and Stop & Shop.
Panic buying continues to cause empty grocery shelves due to the coronavirus panic, with heavier clusters in affected states as grocery retailers are starting to ration supplies. Same-day delivery providers Instacart and Postmates have expanded a “leave it at my door” option as more spooked shoppers opt for no physical contact.
Micro fulfillment centers are all the rage in e-grocery – small, highly automated systems that use robotics to fulfill online orders in 1 to 2 minutes. Neil Stern of McMillonDoolittle talks all things MFC in this latest MCM CommerceChat podcast. He’ll also lead an MFC session at Ecommerce Operations Summit (4/14-16, Orlando).
Amazon is reportedly using a micro-fulfillment center solution from Dematic at its first grocery store not named Whole Foods outside Los Angeles, sending a loud signal to the rest of the market that an MFC capability is critical to success and maintaining market share in the red-hot e-grocery sector.
Children are making their holiday toy lists, and this year it goes beyond the traditional buying experience. Major retailers like Target, Walmart and Disney are reimagining ways to showcase popular toys and provide a more interactive experience than stores of the past, and Toys R Us is looking for an experiential comeback.
Amazon waited an entire month to swing back at Walmart’s new same-day grocery delivery program, making delivery from Amazon Fresh and Whole Foods free for Prime members by eliminating the $14.99/month charge on $35 and up orders. It’s available in 2,000 cities and towns, mostly through Amazon’s 480 Whole Foods stores.
In the never-ending quest for delivery immediacy, grocer Kroger is testing out 30-minute deliveries in its home market of Cincinnati, cutting the promised time from Amazon’s Prime Now in half. Called Kroger Rush, the service costs $5.95 per order, with the first order free, and requires an app download.