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Retailers Expand Tests of Curbside Pickup Model

Retailers Expand Tests of Curbside Pickup Model

"With a dedicated drive-through area and dedicated employees bringing it out to the car, the time equation is being addressed in a more meaningful way.” — Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillan Doolittle

CHELMSFORD, Mass. — Customers at the Stop & Shop supermarket here might not know it, but their store offers a mode of shopping that is currently all the rage in Europe.

The store offers a service that has been around for almost as long as the Internet — order your groceries online, pick them up at the store — but Stop & Shop and an increasing number of European retailers have improved upon that by adding a dedicated drive-up area alongside the store and a segregated order-storage area within the store.

Neil Stern, senior partner at McMillan Doolittle, Chicago, said the retailers that have implemented this offering have elevated e-grocery to a new level of convenience.

Giant Eagle Plans ‘Curbside Express’ Debut

“In the old days, you had to park, go into the store, pick up your stuff, and the consumer was saying, ‘How much time did I really save?’” he said. “Now, with a dedicated drive-through area and dedicated employees bringing it out to the car, the time equation is being addressed in a more meaningful way.”

In addition to the Chelmsford Stop & Shop, parent company Ahold, based in Amsterdam, also offers the service at two Giant-Carlisle locations in Camp Hill, Pa., and Willow Grove, Pa. Customer ordering is done through Ahold’s Peapod e-commerce platform.

“Our companies are currently looking into expanding the convenience of pick-up points as a format, tapping the expertise of Peapod,” Tracy Pawelski, vice president of external communications, Ahold USA, told SN. “We continue to evaluate pick-up sites and will have more to announce later this summer.”

Drive-Through Model

Edouard Aubin, an analyst with Morgan Stanley in Paris, said Ahold has been encouraged to explore the drive-through model by James McCann, a member of its executive board who witnessed the growth of the model while an executive at Carrefour in France.

Stop & Shop Readies New Prototype

“He saw how the drive-through model was growing exponentially,” Aubin told SN. “It went from 0% market share to 2.5% share in two years. That might not seem like much, but in a market with little to no growth overall, that’s more than the total market growth in France.”

He estimated there are currently about 1,300 drive-through units in France, vs. about 20 in the U.S.

Dick BoerIn a recent conference call with analysts, Dick Boer (right), chief executive officer, Ahold, said the drive-up units in the U.S. have shown “promising results,” and said the company was going to continue to test different models, including possibly charging a fee for the service.

Aubin said he thinks the offering will be “difficult to make work” without charging a fee.

Other retailers offering a similar service include Matthews, N.C.-based Harris Teeter Supermarkets — which normally charges $4.95 for its “Express Lane” curbside pickup service, but is currently offering a $1.95 “summer special” — and Pittsburgh-based Giant Eagle, which debuted the “Curbside Express” service at a single Market District location in April.

Last week Cheshunt, England-based Tesco said it was ramping up its “Click & Collect” curbside pickup offering in the U.K., according to a Bloomberg report, with plans for 150 drive-up locations by year-end.

Additional reporting by Jon Springer

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