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Perhaps like me, you may have thought that the laziest thing you’ve done over the past couple of years was having a too-tasty take-away delivered by UberEats or your weekly shop shipped-in via Ocado? Well, think again. On-demand grocery companies, aimed specifically at small ‘basket shops’ of cold beer, cat food and chocolate hobnobs are springing-up all over the country, promising to deliver whatever you want in as little as ten minutes.
During the last eighteen months at least a dozen different on-demand grocery companies have emerged, with names that make them sound like refugees from Pixar’s latest animated blockbuster: Weezy, Jiffy, Dija, Zapp, Fancy, Gorilla’s and my personal favourite, to be said with a suitably unimpressed snarl, Getir! Needless to say, all have bold, primary coloured branding and all hire young, fit couriers who arrive demurely on e-bikes and scooters or breathlessly on normal bicycles.
Established supermarkets, quick to realise the threat, are pedalling equally hard to capture the same market: Sainsbury’s Chop Chop, delivers food within an hour for £4.99; Tesco is trialling its own version, Tesco Whoosh, with charges between £5-£7. Others, including Waitrose, Aldi, Co-op (who were the first to open up a self-service shop in London in 1948) and Morrisons, have signed-up with Deliveroo, paying an undisclosed sum for every delivery completed. Furthermore, the actual prices on-demand grocers charge tend to be in line with a Tesco Express or Sainsbury’s Local, which are approximately 8-9% more expensive, but it doesn’t appear to put their potential customers off.
Despite operating for only a blink of the proverbial eye, many of these new kids on the shopping-block have already raised eye-wateringly sums, in excess of £10bn, from various venture capital and private equity firms. Betting on the continued burgeoning of online grocery shopping, analysts point to the fact that in Feb 2020 £7.40 of every £100 was spent online but within only twelve months this had more than doubled. One particular investor, Blossom Capital, is predicting Dija, trading since March 2020 and with 24 ‘dark stores’, will very soon be valued at the astronomical level of £100bn. By comparison, Tesco, founded in 1919 and with 4500 stores is worth a paltry £17bn.
The strategy of the ubiquitous app start-up is always one of ‘land-grab’: don’t worry about making money just yet, build big, quickly, get a shed-load of customers and then focus on profiteering when the competition has fallen by the wayside. However, with established supermarkets generating profits of only four quid for every £100 sold, and Ocado still operating in the red, it’s not a given that these new services will ever make it into the black. Admittedly, if they make their fortunes at the expense of the big five, then few shoppers will complain but what if they hit at the very fabric of our high street? Corner shops have a very real place in people’s hearts because there’s invariably a recognisable local face when you pop in for your pint of semi-skimmed and copy of Readers’ Wives. Jiffy isn’t likely to sound the death knell for Arkwright & Granville but it could well be another nail in their coffin.
Whatever your appetite, I’ll leave the final word to Turancan Salur, Getir’s general manager, “We are democratising the right to laziness.” And he’s not wrong. That laziness could fuel multimillion fortunes for those who end up winners in this crazy supermarket battle but for me, they’re all off their trolleys!