- Kroger has converted one of its stores in the Greater Cincinnati area to “pickup-only” service as the company tries to meet growing customer demand for alternative shopping methods, according to a press release emailed to Grocery Dive.
- The store, located at 4630 Aicholtz Road in the Mount Carmel area, converted to pickup service on Wednesday and is taking orders from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. The store’s pharmacy remains open, and customers are still able to speak with health care staff and pick up prescriptions. Nearby Kroger locations will also continue to offer pickup service.
- A Kroger spokeswoman told Grocery Dive this is a single-store pilot, and that the company will decide at a later date whether to keep the store as a pickup-only option or convert it back to normal operations.
By converting a store to click-and-collect only, Kroger is opening up the local supply line for a heavily in-demand service. The company said it “continues to experience an increase in demand for its pickup service as customers seek alternative ways to shop for groceries.”
Customers rushed into stores earlier this month as news announcements related to the coronavirus rolled in. But they’re growing increasingly wary of crowded public spaces and following advice to limit their grocery trips. They’re also moving their shopping online, which is creating separate operational challenges. Customers have complained of week-long waits for delivery, while some grocers have turned off e-commerce services due to labor shortages and technical difficulties. Amazon has temporarily shut down its Prime Pantry service due to elevated demand.
Could Kroger’s pickup conversion become a trend? The move promises to boost online fulfillment using existing resources. And it utilizes a ClickList service that’s familiar to many customers, and increasingly seen as a way to maintain social distancing by delivering orders directly to shoppers’ waiting vehicles.
Kroger's announcement noted that customers should still expect limited inventory and order fulfillment delays that are longer than usual.
Grocers are getting creative to meet shifting customer demand, and pickup service is part of their evolving strategies. Grocery Outlet, which doesn’t traditionally offer online ordering, is trialing curbside service at several locations, R.J. Sheedy, the company’s president, said during its earnings call earlier this week. At Walgreens stores, customers can pick up household and grocery products along with prescriptions at pharmacy drive-through windows, while in Malvern, Iowa, single-store operator Mulholland Grocery has switched to pickup-only service, with shoppers being asked to email or call in their orders.
Instacart and Shipt are trying to hire hundreds of thousands of additional workers to further open up online shopping availability. Retailers are going on hiring sprees as well, and have linked up with the struggling retail, hospitality and restaurant sectors to funnel new employees.
Grocers are also introducing new social distancing and safety measures in their stores, including plexiglass barriers at checkouts and service counters, and floor markings to help customers maintain the recommended six-foot spacing at front ends. Some retailers, most notably Trader Joe’s, have also begun limiting the number of customers allowed into their stores at one time.