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EDITORIAL How delivery and collection are evolving as competition heats up

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It is testament to the rapidity of change in the online retail sector that services and technologies that are still, to many consumers at least, new are already getting a make-over. Consumer spending on new tech may be waning, but retailers are falling over themselves to improve on what they already offer online shoppers to make it easier, faster, more convenient, more personal and, perhaps above all else, more sustainable.

Nowhere is this more keenly felt than in delivering online purchases to their new owners.

Perhaps the most interesting is Swedish discounter Motatos. Its raison d’etre is end food waste by creating a business all around selling surplus supermarket and distributor stocks of ambient groceries online at a reduced price. Already a big hit in its native Sweden, it has spread the model across the Nordics and into Germany. Now it is coming to the UK.

It has real potential to shake up the UK online grocery market as it offers something that really chimes with the mood of the shopping public. Not only does it seek to end the scandalous waste of food seen in most developed markets, but also it offers value for money – something that all consumers now increasingly value in these straitened times as much as they do saving the planet.

While Motatos doesn’t sell fresh, frozen, or chilled goods, it does a good line in all those ambient, bulk-buy items that are staples and is a great way to cheaply and sustainably stock up on non-perishables – not that I want to encourage panic buying, but there is a war on.

At the other end of the grocery spectrum is the need for instant gratification – a need traditionally filled by local convenience stores. Here too, innovation is at play. One Stop, a nationwide chain of convenience shops is the latest retailer to get in with Uber Eats to offer near-instant doorstep delivery of all those late night essentials.

While this is nothing ground-breaking, it does cement how smaller retailers are now very much playing in the same park as the big grocery chains, even taking them on with the ability to offer more rapid and more convenient delivery than the big players.

Together, Motatos and One Stop are quite disruptive for the UK grocery industry.

Taking a different tack, Co-op has opted to try and make Click & Collect more user-friendly. To my mind, Click & Collect manages to combine all that is awful with in-store shopping – the queues, the parking, the people – with ecommerce. However, it is extremely popular and Co-op, at least, is seeking to perhaps assuage the doubts of people like me. Its high-tech solution? A dedicated service hatch from which Click & Collect-ors can retrieve their order.

The idea is that they won’t clog up the main part of the store and it should take some of the pain out of collection and, while it may seem to be rather obvious, no one else has thought of it and it may just be the upgrade that C&C so sorely needs.

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