You might think that the multiples have home delivery and click and collect all sewn up, but new players are helping to open up the market to c-store retailers ready to step up a gear. C-Store talks to store owners who are proving that they too can deliver

Fast food has taken on a whole new meaning in recent years, thanks to the internet and a host of firms willing to deliver everything from crisps and chocolate to chicken tikka and chilli, in speedy quick time.

Among those leading the revolution is Deliveroo, the company which started out four years ago as a service allowing consumers to order takeout from their local restaurant without leaving the comfort of their sofa. Today the firm boasts more than 15,000 riders in the UK and is in talks with Nisa and the Co-operative group about extending the service to the groups’ retailers. The Co-op last month began trialling a pilot in Greater Manchester, initially focusing on a few categories. The trial will take place across five stores and test consumer demand for home deliveries. David Kirby, head of strategy at the Co-op, says: “We have launched an exciting partnership with Deliveroo to make access to our products and services even easier for consumers. This small trial will focus on beers, wines and spirits as well as snacks and confectionery and will be limited to the Greater Manchester area.”

Kay Patel, owner of seven Best-One stores in London, is among a growing number of independents to have already linked up with Deliveroo. Kay’s first route to Deliveroo was as a Heineken Star Retailer (see box out), but late last year Kay independently created a ‘Bottleshop’, accessed though the Deliveroo app and served from his Wanstead store. The service means local shoppers can order a wide range of beers, wines and spirits from Kay simply through swiping their phone.

He says: “Our Deliveroo service has gone from strength to strength. Christmas was the real test and we did really well. We even had some delivery people who had to turn stock away because they couldn’t carry the items, which shows how high demand has been.”

For Kay, deciding to work with Deliveroo had involved a £400 upfront payment and a commitment to keeping stock as close to 100% as possible, but he says the higher basket spend is a huge benefit. Working with them also means he can offer a wider range than he can via the Star Retailer scheme.

“It was a bit of a punt,” he says, “and the tablets for managing the system cost about £400, but things have really paid off.”

Kay’s customers can order wines, beers, spirits and liqueurs, soft drinks and even ice, and Kay is looking to add more products in future. “I’d like to add snacks to the range,” he says. “Once we get a better idea of who our customers are then we can start offering even more services.”

Kay says dealing with Deliveroo is straightforward. “It’s a really easy system to use. There’s no real need for us to offer a click and collect service when we can offer every-thing we want through the Bottleshop.”

Paul Stone, who owns eight Spar stores in the Manchester area, was one of the first c-store retailers in the country to work with Deliveroo, and to start with he took the initiative. “Deliveroo came to a Spar strategy day, and as I see so many of their riders in the city every day I remember thinking: ‘There must be something to this’. So I approached them to see if we could work together.

“Our connection with Deliveroo is a little remote to be honest, it’s just a sales opportunity driven by our location. But it is all additional revenue. People buying through them are not necessarily anywhere near the shop - they could be 20 minutes away.”

He says the sales revenue can be inconsistent. “Some weeks you get dozens of orders, other weeks only five or six come through.

“We now work with both Deliveroo and Uber Eats, from different stores. In that way we get the maximum spread of opportunity. But we’d do even better if they delivered later - currently it’s only up until 11pm.”

Online all the way

Adam Vincent, company director at Dike & Sons in Stalbridge, Dorset, has gone all in with an online offering at the large store. Customers are able to not only do a full online shop, but staff also manage a home delivery service, postal website, and the store has just added product listings on Amazon. It also offers a click and collect service.

Adam says: “We decided that we had to offer a click and collect and home delivery service because, even though we are the only shop in the town, people can easily order from Tesco and other supermarkets to get their food delivered.”

Drivers make home deliveries to those in South Somerset, and other parts of Dorset. “If people live outside the town, then the complete delivery service costs £4.50,” Adam says, “which is less than the equivalent supermarket offering. Most customers spend about £30 a time online.”

The click and collect service doesn’t mean the store misses out on building relationships with shoppers, either - just the opposite, says Adam. “Many of our older customers like the social element of coming in to the store to collect their shopping. Some come in more than once a day and have a coffee in the café, a look round, and then collect their shopping. Staff know what each customer likes so can provide a personal service.”

Running a digital service can be time-consuming, though. Adam says: “Putting all the data online was hard work. We got round the problem of copyright and images by shooting all the pictures ourselves.”

Adam took on university students who had previously worked at the store to do the job. “I re-employed them over a summer to go through all the pictures and write the descriptions for the website,” he explains.

Maintaining the store’s online image is a constant job, but it’s important as Adam believes shoppers expect a seamless online experience, whether it’s from their local shop or multiple.

Delivering products online provides Dike & Sons with higher than average margins, but the demand is never predictable. On one occasion, the store received an order from a prison for 100 rolls of toilet paper.

“Out of our three online services, I’m most excited by Amazon because if we can get that right then it will be really good for us. It’s hard to keep stock high when you have online shopping, a postal service, home delivery and now Amazon, but after a few months of running them all together, we will soon be able to get the full range together.”

Chris Taylor, co-owner of Taylors of Tickhill in Yorkshire, has been making a success of his digital click and collect service using a provider called Shop Appy. It costs him just £20 a month to appear on the shopping website, which links stores in his area.

“People are using the site to buy meat from the butcher, bread from the baker, flowers from the florist and groceries from ourselves. That’s what we really wanted, for people to make a significant change in their shopping habits as a result of ordering online,” Chris says. “The response since launch in September has been impressive.”

Shoppers order via the website and then collect all the goods from one central collection point, which for Tickhill residents is the local Mace petrol station. Taylor’s of Tickhill fulfils online orders from Wednesday to Saturday, and doesn’t charge for the service.

Chris says: “People now see buying local as a real option. I’ve always been aware that businesses like ours need an online presence, but it is often hard and expensive to manage. With Shop Appy, we’re covering all bases.”

Like Adam, losing footfall because of click and collect hasn’t been a problem. “What we’re finding is that people are staying on our page for long periods of time, choosing what they want to buy. Then they come to the store to shop and know exactly what we have. Our footfall has actually increased as a result of offering a click and collect service.”

Jackie Mulligan, founder of Shop Appy, believes a click and collect service is vital for a small business. She says: “Click and collect is essential to the high street’s future. It brings people into the town and, with the Shop Appy collection points, shoppers are encouraged to meet people and chat with those in their local community.

“I think we are in danger of losing that connection with our high street, which is why we focused Shop Appy on click and collect rather than standard delivery.”

Former CRA winner David Charman has also been dipping his toe into click and collect with a purpose-built area at his Spar Parkfoot store in West Malling, Kent. After a successful trial over Christmas, David is hoping to have the service fully operational in the next few months. Over the festive period, customers were able to order butchery, confectionery, alcohol, chilled and frozen products via the Parkfoot website.

At Jerry Tweney’s Prestbury Village Stores in Cheltenham, there’s no online presence or large team of drivers - but his delivery service beats most of the multiples in that deliveries are usually made within two hours of someone calling in.

He says: “Most of the time we don’t even have to drive our van out. The houses we deliver to are often within walking distance. I usually take the food there myself just so I can engage with the customer directly. I like to ask them how they found out about us and whether they will use the service again.

“We can walk round the store with our mobile phone and tell the customer exactly what we have in stock, with no substitutes. It’s almost like a face-to-face communication, which is particular important for the older customers who can’t get out to our shop.”

The advantages, says Jerry, are a higher-than-average basket spend, and an invaluable PR opportunity. “It’s great because we get to talk with customers in person and on the phone. It’s an incredible one-to-one experience.”


Amazon pushes on with on-demand deliveries

Amazon Fresh

Amazon has been working on increasing the reach of its grocery home delivery services.

AmazonFresh is now available in 302 postcodes in London and surrounding areas, offering same-day delivery in one-hour slots. The service gives Prime members access to more than 180,000 products, including items from local stores and markets. Delivery is free for orders above £40 (£6.99 for orders below £40).

The company says that its Prime Now service is available to more than 30% of the UK population in most major cities, offering same-day delivery within one hour of an order, or a scheduled two-hour window. The two-hour delivery window is free subject to a minimum order threshold of £40 (£3.99 if below this threshold). Delivery within one-hour is £7.99 per order.

Prime members across the UK also have access to Amazon Pantry groceries, household products, alcohol, health and personal care lines, delivered in a box. There is no minimum order value for next day delivery costing £2.99 per box, and 99p for each additional box in the same order.


Suppliers offer a route to home delivery

Retailers looking for a quick and easy route to home delivery can take advantage of new partnerships between suppliers and delivery services such as UberEats and Deliveroo.

As part of its Star Retailer scheme, Heineken Brew House allows retailers to sell a selection of its beers and ciders through Deliveroo, at no cost.

Store owners must be located within a Deliveroo delivery zone and ensure they have full availability of the selected Heineken Brew House range.

Diageo has also set up a similar scheme with UberEats, allowing c-store retailers to fulfil orders of a range of the brand’s spirits, as well as mixers and snacks, via the UberEats app.

The initiative provides an opportunity for retailers to increase their alcohol sales, while also offering customers a convenient way to buy products online.

Those store owners who sign up with Brew House or Diageo receive advice on how to manage their orders, along with a fully set-up tablet.