Loblaw Companies Ltd. officially launched its new click-and-collect program Friday, allowing customers at a store in Richmond Hill to shop online and pick up their orders without getting out of their cars.
“We believe it is the ultimate in convenience,” said Jeremy Pee, senior vice-president, e-commerce and omni-channels, Loblaw Cos.
“People are time-starved. Anything that drives convenience is valid.”
Click-and-collect will roll out at two more GTA Loblaw stores in the coming weeks, at 11 Redway Rd. in Leaside and at 17 Leslie St. in Leslieville.
Customers who want to shop at the Richmond Hill store, at 301 High Tech Rd., can log onto shop.loblaws.ca to place their orders.
They can search for items by name, by grocery aisle, store flyer, food categories or event. A search for barbecue brings up selections for hamburgers, hotdogs and buns.
Products pictured online are accompanied by descriptions and nutritional information. The system also keeps track of previous orders.
“We boost the things you’ve bought in the past to the top,” said Pee.
The website offers consumers the discounts available in the flyer, and additional discounts, including personalized offers linked to their PC Plus loyalty card.
Store employees put the order together, said Pee. Customers can specify preferences — green bananas instead of riper ones, for example. The site has more than 20,000 items.
Fees for the service are $3 to $5. The more popular pick-up times — suppertime, for instance — cost $5; there is a $10 charge for orders that aren’t picked up.
Loblaw research found that it takes customers about 45 minutes to shop a store, said spokesperson Kevin Groh. It can be done much more quickly online, with pick-up taking about five minutes.
Loblaw looked at click-and-collect programs in Europe, the U.K., and the U.S. as models, but also drew on techniques used in the car-rental industry, where customers are processed quickly at drop-off, said Groh.
“I love it. I really don’t have much time to do groceries and I am a digital person. My generation is on the Internet all the time,” said Lauren Steinberg, 32, senior manager of e-commerce and marketing at Loblaw Cos., and one of the participants in a pilot project the company held using staff.
According to a recent survey of 1,000 people conducted in the U.S. by PwC, although online retail shopping is on the rise, just 5 per cent of shoppers ranked online grocery shopping in their top three shopping options for the future.
Half of shoppers surveyed said the inability to interact with the product is the main reason they don’t shop for groceries online.
“This sentiment could eventually change, as shoppers may not easily envision future innovations they’re not yet accustomed to,” according to the report.
Rob Gerlsbeck, editor of Canadian Grocer, said click-and-collect has the potential to take off in Canada.
“It’s standard operating procedure for grocery stores in France now,” he said. Stores in the U.K and U.S. also offer the service and it is also offered by some stores in B.C.
Britain’s largest grocer, Tesco, has expanded click and collect to more than 250 locations and plans to have 400 by year’s end, according to the magazine.
“It can be a pretty compelling reason to shop that way when you need to get home and the kids have hockey practice and it’s -30 degrees outside,” said Gerlsbeck.
But even in Europe, where the practice is more common, click-and-collect represents a fraction of total grocery sales — between three and six per cent, he added.
But could click-and-collect result in higher costs overall for Loblaw Cos., exerting pressure on profit margins?
“I believe it’s a small cost and it would be largely offset by fees,” said Kevin Grier, senior market analyst for the George Morris Centre in Guelph.