BELLEVUE, Wash. -- Quality Food Centers here is no longer offering home-shopping services because OnCart, Lombard, Ill., the third-party company providing it with telemarketing, ordering, processing and delivery, is reportedly in the process of ending its operations.
Repeated calls to OnCart executives went answered, but sources told SN the third-party provider was discontinuing operations. This has left retailers like QFC to deal with the consequences.
OnCart, formerly known as Shoppers Express, was one of the earliest third-party companies to provide home-shopping services in conjunction with retailers.
"Right now we don't have an alternative program, so we're not offering home shopping, but we're exploring various options," said Jeff Wood, vice president of grocery merchandising at QFC.
QFC has been offering home-shopping services since 1991 and had a number of customers using the service. Wood declined to provide specific figures.
QFC alerted customers to the change in service by sending a letter to every customer who had ordered product during the past six months.
QFC relied heavily on OnCart's services for home shopping. Customers had a choice of more than 30,000 items and placed 200-plus orders a week, a Shoppers Express source told SN late last year.
"Other than picking the orders, [OnCart] did everything else," Wood said. "It received the orders from the customers at its phone center. They faxed them to a fulfillment store using a proprietary software that made it efficient for us to pick the order within that store, and they actually did the delivery piece as well."
Making deliveries work operationally and cost-effectively appears to have been a challenge for OnCart.
"[OnCart] originally used third-party carriers," Wood said. "Then they started hiring their own people, so the last six months have been with their own people."
OnCart's home-shopping services were used by retailers in Atlanta; Columbus, Ohio; Dallas-Fort Worth; Los Angeles-Orange County; Phoenix; and Seattle. Late last year, King Soopers, Denver, announced it would turn over operation of its home-shopping service to OnCart during the first quarter of 1998. King Soopers is a division of Dillon Cos., Hutchinson, Kan., which is a division of Kroger Co., Cincinnati.