The Co-operative Group is preparing to launch online shopping trials in a bid to secure a slice of the UK’s £6.1bn home delivery market. It will launch four different trials, the first of which will begin before Christmas.
Chief Executive of the Group’s retail division Steve Murrells said online shopping had become a priority. "We're currently looking at a number of digital solutions to provide an online grocery offering, which will complement our strong community food retailing position,” he said.
"We recognise that the online grocery market is a rapidly growing channel, which provides a significant opportunity for us as, primarily, a convenience retailer. We have trials planned later in the year to help us identify the best convenient solution to online food retailing."
He said he believed that online and convenience were the only two areas of food retail which were still showing growth. The Group was already confident in conveneince, he said. Now it needed to develop a strategy for the online market.
An innovative online convenience store was one option. Other considerations included click-and-collect and home delivery services, along with in-store, internet and mobile app interfaces.
Currently there is no online option for Co-operative shoppers, but home delivery terminals in selected stores allow customers to shop as normal and have their shopping delivered at a time convenient to them.
The Group has about 330 home delivery vehicles in service and over 6,000 stores nationwide. It delivers for free on a £25 spend within a five-mile radius of some stores, but the service is only available within limited postcode areas.
Retail Consultant Graham Soult said: “On the face of it, the Co-operative Group’s entry into online grocery retail is counter-intuitive. Its brand is associated with convenience, yet online grocery shopping is almost entirely about full weekly shops and large basket sizes.
“Encouragingly, statements from the Group so far re-emphasise the business’s role as a convenience retailer, and infer that the planned trials will make use of its greatest asset: the extensive store estate.”