- Lowes Foods is working with retail automation company Bell and Howell to provide grocery pickup services at office buildings in North and South Carolina using unattended pickup lockers, according to a Wednesday press release.
- The companies have placed the first lockers in the program outside Bell and Howell's headquarters in Durham, North Carolina, and Lowes is currently delivering orders to the temperature-controlled units three times per week.
- Lowes' initiative is another example of grocers offering fulfillment away from homes and stores as they bet on more consumers returning to office work.
Lowes' announcement that it is providing pickup service where people work is the latest in a string of initiatives by food retailers to push the bounds of their online grocery operations.
The North Carolina supermarket chain is using QuickCollect GL lockers supplied by Bell and Howell's QuickCollect Solutions division to provide service at office buildings. The remotely configurable units, which Bell and Howell said are able to protect food "in the toughest outdoor climates," feature multiple temperature zones that can keep food at temperatures between -10 degrees to 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Customers receive a text or email to alert them when their order is ready to be retrieved and use a scannable code to gain access to the locker containing their goods.
Lowes and Bell and Howell did not indicate when they would install lockers at locations other than Bell and Howell's building as part of the program. Chad Petersen, vice president of e-commerce for Lowes, said the 80-store chain is still working to identify potential locations for the units in the Research Triangle area of North Carolina, which includes Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill, the Triangle Business Journal reported.
The new offering, which is a part of Lowes' To Go online service, signals confidence in more consumers returning to office buildings after more than a year of widespread work-from-home policies.
It's also the latest step among retailers providing pickup and delivery services away from the traditional service points of homes and stores. For example, Kroger is trialing pickup depots in small towns across Ohio, while Hy-Vee has placed pickup lockers at offsite locations like hospitals.
These tests are betting on the convenience of shoppers being able to grab their groceries before heading home for the day, but similar initiatives have faltered in the past, including Peapod installing pickup lockers at transit stations.
Some grocers, like Albertsons and Stop & Shop, have recently placed pickup lockers and automated kiosks at their stores. Retailers like Amazon and Walmart, meanwhile, are testing new home delivery innovations. Amazon recently expanded its in-garage service across 5,000 locations, while Walmart is testing in-home delivery as well as delivery to temperature-controlled boxes located outside consumers' homes.