BASHAS' BOOSTS PICKING EFFICIENCY

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' Markets here, which resurrected its Internet-based home-delivery service earlier this year, expanded into the Tucson area last month.The retailer uses customized shopping carts equipped with laptop computers and handheld scanners to improve the efficiency of picking items from the store for home-delivery orders."We're not in a position to have a dedicated warehouse for our

CHANDLER, Ariz. -- Bashas' Markets here, which resurrected its Internet-based home-delivery service earlier this year, expanded into the Tucson area last month.

The retailer uses customized shopping carts equipped with laptop computers and handheld scanners to improve the efficiency of picking items from the store for home-delivery orders.

"We're not in a position to have a dedicated warehouse for our home-delivery service, so we are using technology to make the process of picking the items at the store as efficient as possible," said Becca Anderson, a spokewoman for the retailer.

Many of the larger home-delivery services, such as Peapod, Skokie, Ill., are moving toward dedicated distribution centers rather than working with retailers to pick items from store shelves. However, many retailers operating on-line grocery services do not have the volume to justify a dedicated warehouse.

Customers can order from about 30,000 items at www.bashas.com, which includes everything that can be purchased in the store with the exception of lottery tickets. The retailer charges $9.95 for home delivery.

Bashas' had been working with a third-party on-line grocer but had to suspend delivery when that company went out of business in early 1998.

"We had a lot of people dependent on the service, people who are homebound and have no other way of getting groceries," Anderson said. "So we decided to put together a program that we could run totally in-house with our staff, including our own call center to take orders placed over the phone," she said.

When an order is placed via the Internet, phone or fax, it is transmitted to the store for picking. The picking staffs in the stores view the orders on laptops, which run software from Independent Delivery Systems, East Granby, Conn. IDS also provides the software used to input orders at the call center and provides the communications software to transmit the orders from the Internet to the store.

The order pickers use specially designed carts that will allow them to pick four orders at a time. When they choose an item from the shelf, they enter the item using barcode scanners from Opticon, Orangeburg, N.Y. "Scanning the items as they go helps to reduce errors and missed items," Anderson noted.

Because the Phoenix area, which the company has been serving since the beginning of the year, and Tucson are spread out, the retailer is looking to concentrate on marketing to office complexes so that customers can have their orders delivered to work.

"Larger orders, where we would be delivering to office complexes, could help offset some of the costs of delivering to outlying areas," she said.