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Grocery pick-up and delivery orders increase for local grocers

April 07, 2020 by Kayla Houp

As recommendations for social distancing and limiting non-essential travel grow amid concerns over the spread of the novel coronavirus, local grocers are seeing an increase in the volume of orders for grocery pick-up and delivery services.

“We’re up, probably close to three times in some stores what we’re used to in some stores right now,” T.A. Solberg Company director of marketing Kindl Furtak said. “What we’ve done in the last three months is about what we would’ve done in eight months last year, so there’s really been an uptick here in the past few weeks.”

In looking at the number of orders, T.A. Solberg Company president and CEO Bob Jaskolski reported the number of orders was almost “10 times the amount” of an average week. 

“We did over 300 orders last week,” Jaskolski said. “Now, the typical week, we may do between 30 and 40.”

The increase in orders has lead the T.A. Solberg to hire more employees to accommodate for the increase in demand for services, some of which are temporary workers displaced from other jobs during the COVID-19 crisis.

“We’ve also done a lot of cross-training with other associates that we have throughout the store to serve as backup,” Furtak said.

Jaskolski added there was a “lot of training” involved in bringing on new employees in the area as a personal shopper.

“The system itself is fairly user-friendly, but where we really focus a lot of our training is in guest experience and on making sure that they are really shopping as though they were choosing items for their own family,” Furtak said. “Making sure that they are finding the very best quality produce or meat items, and so forth, and that they’re really putting that best foot forward in getting the very best product out to our guests.”

Pick-up and delivery process

Guests can place an order online and select a time for pick-up or delivery. From there, personal shoppers collect the ordered items and prepare the order for pick up or delivery.

According to Furtak, the delivery radius varies by store and the delivery radius was based on store location and which one made the most sense for the delivery zip code.

“If we’re talking Minocqua, we for sure go to Minocqua, Woodruff, Arbor Vitae, Lac du Flambeau, and so forth,” Furtak said. “We do go down to Hazelhurst, and over to St. Germain as such, but some of those areas are covered by other stores and some are covered by Minocqua.”

While the pick-up and delivery services are beneficial in terms of maintaining social distancing and limiting non-essential travel, the T.A. Solberg Company is putting practices and measures in place to maintain social distancing and sanitization by offering a deliver-to-door option, as well as a contactless pick-up option.

“The customers choose those options as they’re shopping and enter that into the comments and we will drop those groceries right at their doorstep, and they can have a contactless delivery just to keep everybody safe,” Furtak said. 

For contactless pick-up, Furtak said customers could show their name and order number through their car window, and employees would load items into the customer’s vehicle.

Furtak encouraged the use of delivery services for customers who were most at risk, such as the elderly, immunocompromised, disabled, and homebound while recommending grocery pick-up services as much as possible for others.

“We have a much greater capacity for store pick up than we do delivery,” Jaskolski said. “We don’t like to turn away customers or guests, we definitely are limited in the availability of delivery we can do.”

Just a few miles away, Save More Marketplace in Minocqua is experiencing much of the same increases in order volume and hiring.

“We were lucky enough to be able to hire some key people and pull some people from other areas of the store where we were able to increase the hours there,” Minocqua Save More Marketplace president Jim Gauden said. “When you get more hours, it makes you a little bit more efficient.”

While it has taken more hours to deliver the amount of orders being placed, Gauden said the store was able to pull staff together.

“It’s something that Save More’s been doing — delivery and pickup — for over three years now, so we’re pretty efficient at it,” Gauden said. “Our site is linked to go right to our website ... it’s really simple, the customers can call us for their pick-ups and we’ll take it right outside to their cars, or they can come in the store and grab the order.”

For Save More Marketplace, the delivery service is available in a 17-mile radius from the store.

With a “pretty large window” of times for orders, Gauden said many customers could order and get their groceries the same day, depending on time of day the order was put in.

“It’s a pretty efficient process for the customer,” Gauden said.

‘A learning curve’

While recent events have sparked an uptick in the volume of pick-up and delivery orders for groceries, it also raised the question as to how home delivery and grocery pick-up is impacting the entire grocery industry and whether people would continue to utilize the services once things settled down.

“Not only is this a huge learning curve for a lot of people,” Jaskolski said. “But it’s also a big learning curve for the industry as a whole.”

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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