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One-hour supermarket delivery service launches in London

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A new kind of one-hour supermarket delivery service has been launched across London.

Following trials in North London, Pocket Shop has already delivered more than 3,500 items across the city with its promise of deliveries in as little as one hour. Charges are on a sliding scale depending on the time of delivery: one-hour delivery costs £6.50, two is £5.50 while three is £5.10.

Customers order their shopping online at PocketShop.com, choosing from products that available at stores near them. Once completed, their orders goes to the nearest of Pocket Shop’s team of 20 shoppers, who travel into the hotspot areas where Pocket Shop has pockets of customers.

That shopper walks to the shop, using an app that first guides them through in-store picking, and then directs them to the delivery address. Customers get a text message alert when their order is on its way and the first order is delivered free of charge. They subsequently receive a weekly restock reminder email enabling them to restock their cupboards within the hour.

Pocket Shop offers a ‘superstore’ range of 150,000 products and promises that prices are comparable to shopping in Local and Metro convenience stores. Currently it delivers proudcts from Sainsbury’s and Tesco and says it will soon add Boots, Waitrose and Marks & Spencer. The service promises to make substitutions where there are suitable and sensible alternatives but will not buy items where there’s doubt. It is currently adding a feature to the website to say if a replacement will be appropriate or not.

A dynamic website means that the company can adapt to demand. Dynamic delivery options, for example are based on the current capacity of shoppers. If a delivery can’t be made in an hour, customers will only see the option of a two-hour, or other, delivery option. Peaks in certain areas mean shoppers will be moved to those areas.

The service comes out of internet technology business Forward Labs, which is part of the Forward Internet Group. It brings together entrepreneurs, designers, developers and marketers to fasttrack growth of tech businesses.

Pocket Shop says its website will soon be augmented by Android and IOS apps.

Pocket Shop founder and chief executive Hemal Kuntawala said: “My background is in internet technology and I wanted to use my skills to make the weekly grocery shop as effortless as possible.”

Kuntawala argues that supermarket trips and online shopping both fall short of the ideal, the former because they’re time-consuming and the latter because it requires forward-planning.

“Both of these sectors are set for rapid growth in the next few years and we wanted to create an experience that combines the two, allowing you to order online but get instantly-delivered gratification,” he said.

“We think this will be the way we’ll all shop in the future – it’s hassle-free and time saving, making Pocket Shop the ultimate convenience store.”

He added: “Over the past few months we’ve gained a lot of loyal customers and their feedback has been incredible. We’re helping a lot of different people – busy parents, people who are housebound and those whose busy lives mean they don’t have the time to get to the shops or plan ahead for a traditional online delivery.”

Our view: Curious to see how this service works in practice, we tried out the ordering part of the service. Putting in an NW1 postcode we were offered a range of products from the local branch of Sainsbury’s. The interesting part here isn’t so much the product range, since that’s in third-party shops, but in the delivery and the technology used to fulfil orders.

Essentially, this service is not unlike Shutl, which uses technology and local couriers to make speedy deliveries from third-party shops. It achieves similar ends without vans, using the relatively low-tech option of the on-foot shopper. But rather than working to gain retail customers, who then offer their customers the delivery option, Pocket Shop gains the customer and then fulfils their order from the most local shop, making its money both through the markup to convenience store prices and through the delivery charge. It’s a tech solution that is certainly one to watch.

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