diamond geezer

 Friday, May 28, 2021

The big new thing in food shopping round these parts is rapid grocery delivery. An army of companies will deliver to your door, usually in 15 minutes or less, to save you the effort of having to go to the supermarket yourself. Invariably it involves an app, a dark store and a chap on a bike. A lot of investors with deep pockets are very much betting on this being the future.

In part it's convenience. If the kids are playing up, or it's raining, or friends unexpectedly nip round, how great for someone else to do your shopping for you.
In part it's speed. Sometimes you don't want to wait days for a delivery slot from a major supermarket, you want the ingredients for a meal now.
In part it's price. If groceries cost much the same as they do in the supermarket, why leave the house and visit one?
In part it's laziness. A frictionless solution means you can carry on gaming on your sofa rather than changing into proper clothes and going out.

It all works by having a network of small, local fulfilment centres stocking a narrow range of popular and premium goods, then sending out riders on mopeds who can reach your door fast. The speed of delivery is designed to impress, but companies are very selective where they deliver so anyone living too far away from a dark store won't be able to sign up. If you live in the countryside don't even bother checking, densely-populated urban areas are where it's at.

I noticed how competitive it's getting while walking around central Hackney yesterday, an area of close-packed cycle-friendly streets with a dearth of large supermarkets nearby. Adverts for these rapid grocery services were everywhere, from phone boxes to bus shelters to the sides of taxis. Within a small area of Dalston I spotted adverts for four different services, which just goes to show how cut-throat this is getting. Winner on the streets was getir, five of whose mopeds I saw zipping past, although it's possible the other services are using unbranded bikes so I missed those.

I thought I'd try and do some research to compare the various companies, although without actually ordering anything because that could have been expensive, and anyway I've just been to Tesco and my fridge is full.

getir - a Turkish company backed by $170m of investor capital which launched in London in February.
when do they deliver: 8am-midnight
minimum spend: £10
delivery fee: £1.99 (but currently free, because they really want to hook you)
delivery time: "around 10 minutes"
first five categories listed in the app: confectionery, crisps & snacks, drinks, alcohol, fruit & veg
where do they deliver: from Clapham to Highgate and Hackney (map), with Notting Hill and Leyton recent additions.
will they deliver to me: no, I live 200m outside their delivery zone, so I've had to delete the app.

Jiffy - its owner ran a similar start-up in Moscow before launching in London in April.
minimum spend: no minimum
delivery fee: £1.99
introductory offer: free delivery for the first month
delivery time: 15 minutes
first five categories listed in the app: milk, bananas, crisps, Jamie Oliver, water
where do they deliver: rapidly expanding across a lot of London, from Wembley to Waterloo and Hounslow to Hackney
will they deliver to me: yes (but if I lived on the other side of the Bow Roundabout, no)

Dija - a UK-based startup founded by senior former Deliveroo employees which launched in London in March.
minimum spend: no minimum
delivery fee: £1.79
introductory offer: £10 off your first order
delivery time: 10 minutes (and 3 months free delivery if they miss the target!)
where do they deliver: South Kensington, Fulham, Battersea, Hackney and Islington (so not me again)

Gorillas - Berlin-based with $290m investor capital behind it, it also launched here in March.
when do they deliver: 9am-11pm
minimum spend: no minimum
delivery fee: £1.80
delivery time: aims for 10 minutes, but no promises
first five categories listed in the app: fruit & veggies, bakery, dairy, meat & poultry, ready to eat
where do they deliver: Acton to Stoke Newington and Balham to Holloway, within discrete blobs (maps)
will they deliver to me: yes (from their new Limehouse dark store)

Weezy - first out of the starting blocks last year, targeting the Waitrose end of the market.
minimum spend: no minimum
delivery fee: £2.95 (so the expensive one)
delivery time: as quick as 15 mins (before the 'Delivery Weezard' arrives)
where do they deliver: the Shepherd's Bush/Lambeth/Mitcham triangle plus Islington/Hackney (map)
will they deliver to me: no, I'm quarter of a mile out

Zapp - launched last summer by a team including former Amazon managers and the Nigerian online grocer Jumia.
when do they deliver: 24/7
minimum spend: no minimum
delivery fee: £1.99 (waived for orders over £30)
delivery time: less than 20 minutes
first five categories listed in the app: groceries, drinks, wine beer & cider, spirits, snacks & ice cream
where do they deliver: from Hammersmith to Angel and Balham to Shoreditch
will they deliver to me: not a chance

The biggest threat to the established order is to small convenience grocery stores - your local corner shop - although several of these are getting in on the act too. Londis has paired with Uber Eats and the Co-Op with Deliveroo, for example, but as yet without the emphasis on ultra-fast delivery.

These new businesses also hope to tap new spending, flogging treats that would never otherwise have been bought, as the emphasis on snacks and drinks confirms. But it's going to be a ruthless fight as several competitors fight to be one of the last few standing. As with many start-ups the gamble is to invest heavily now in the hope of turning a (massive) profit later.

You may not be interested in signing up, just as I'm not interested in signing up, but our indifference is irrelevant. A substantial pool of potential users exists, for whom convenience and speed are the alluring factor, and it's a massive market. Groceries that arrive faster than you could shop for them yourself could be transformational. Mind that moped.

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