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Tops transitions to in-house shoppers for pickup orders

Move comes as Instacart scales back its in-store shopper services

Tops Markets said it will begin using its own store employees to shop for pickup orders at all 58 stores where the “click-and-collect” service is offered, replacing Instacart workers in that role.

The Williamsville, N.Y.-based retailer, which has been expanding its partnership with Instacart in the past few years, relies on Instacart workers to shop for the orders at most of its stores that offer pickup, although it has also been using its own employees to shop for orders at some stores.

“Instacart will no longer be staffing our stores with their own in-store labor, starting in late April,” Kathy Sautter, director of corporate communications and public relations at Tops, told SN.

Tops workers had already been handling most of the pickup orders at 28 of the chain’s 58 pickup stores, she said.

“We're actively hiring in-store shoppers for all 58 locations and looking to recruit the current Instacart in-store shoppers who will no longer have a position with Instacart come April,” said Sautter.

Instacart’s fleet of full-service shopper/drivers, who are independent contractors, will continue to pick and deliver orders for customers seeking home delivery, she said. The in-store shoppers had been employees of Instacart and not independent contractors.

A report in The Buffalo News said that Instacart informed workers on Monday that they would be terminated on April 23.

The change comes as Instacart said it was winding down its in-store shopper operations at some retail locations.

“We’re dedicated to supporting our retail partners with tailored solutions and technology to meet the evolving needs of their businesses and customers,” Instacart said in a statement provided to SN. “As a result of some grocers transitioning to Partner Pick and other fulfillment models, we’ll be winding down our in-store operations at select retailer locations over the coming months.”

Instacart’s Partner Pick fulfillment model allows retailers to use the company’s pickup technology while employing their own employees as shoppers.

Instacart said it was working to offer any of its impacted shoppers the ability to transfer to another store location where available and coordinating with its retail partners to hire shoppers for any open roles they may have. It is also providing shoppers with transition assistance and severance packages.

Instacart announced the national rollout of its Instacart Pickup service in 2018, following a multi-month pilot program in which its own part-time employees were deployed to stores to pick orders and, in some cases, bring them out to customers’ cars. The company said it had partnerships with ALDI, Cub Foods, Food Lion, Price Chopper, Publix, Schnucks, Smart & Final, Sprouts, Tops, Wegmans, and others to offer the Instacart Pickup service. In 2020, the company said it had rolled out Instacart Pickup to more than 3,300 stores in more than 30 states.

Since that time, the service has been scaled back as retailers took shopping for pickup orders in-house. Aldi and Sprouts began using their own in-store shoppers for pickup orders in 2020, and Kroger followed suit in 2021.

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