MAUMEE, Ohio -- Seaway Food Town here will expand its home-shopping service when it tests on-line ordering via the Internet in Toledo, Ohio, in the first quarter of next year. The supermarket chain currently takes home-shopping orders via phone and fax.
"Our perception is that there are going to be more and more electronic commerce activities taking place, and it seems very practical for customers to use the Internet to place grocery orders, especially for pickup orders," said Bill Borer, director of information systems at Seaway Food Town.
Seaway Food Town will test on-line ordering in Toledo because there is an existing clientele for home delivery in that area. The retailer's fulfillment store for phone and fax orders is in West Toledo. On-line orders will also be filled from this location.
The ability to order via the Internet will appeal to a different type of shopper than those who use the telephone or fax to order groceries, Borer said. Seaway Food Town began offering home shopping last year in major metropolitan areas in northwestern Ohio and southern Michigan.
"People using the Internet at home or at the office may want to save time or add convenience and those aren't necessarily the reasons people use the phone service," he explained.
For example, consumers with Internet access at the office could order a ready-to-eat meal during their lunch, and pick it up on the way home.
"The 'pickup' is going to be every bit as popular as delivery," Borer said. "It's on your time schedule. Many of the customers who take advantage of delivery do so because they don't drive or are shut in from illness, recovering from an accident or they can't get out."
Seaway Food Town uses a third-party delivery service to distribute orders to customers' homes. This service will also be used for on-line orders.
"But our belief is that many people who use e-commerce will want to stop by and pick up their orders just to make it fit into their time schedule," he added.
Currently, home shopping is a small yet growing part of Seaway Food Town's total business. "Home shopping has caught customers' attention and their acceptance and utilization of it is expanding," Borer said. "The emphasis is on the convenience of home shopping."