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The future of grocery shopping in Denver: Big stores are evolving

Pickup, delivery, and more, but which one is best?
Posted at 9:46 PM, Nov 01, 2018
and last updated 2018-11-01 23:46:43-04

DENVER -- It’s arguably one of the best innovations for busy families in the last few years -- online grocery ordering. What could be better for a busy family than somebody else doing the shopping for you?

Both self-pick-up and delivery services are becoming more popular by the day, with the big name grocery chains competing to offer the best products, prices, and new services.

“This is the future of grocery shopping,” said Wayne Baca, the assistant manager for e-commerce for Walmart in Brighton.

Baca gave Denver7 a behind the scenes look at how Walmart is filling a growing number of online orders. The store at 7101 E 128th Ave. in Brighton has seen those orders double in the past year, and has had to double staff to keep up.

Denver7 also got a look inside the operations at a Greeley King Soopers and a Denver Safeway.

All three supermarket chains are seeing more traffic in their pick-up areas, where customers drive to the store, park in designated spaces, and wait for an associate to load up their car with their groceries.

Walmart was the first offer a pick-up service in the Denver metro area in 2013. King Soopers followed with ClickList in 2016. Safeway just launched its Drive Up and Go program this year.

The King Soopers Marketplace at 6922 W 10th St. in Greeley is now the busiest location in the country for ClickList. Spokesperson Adam Williamson believes it's because the service appeals to busy families.

"This is the west part of Greeley and it’s such a growing area," said Williamson. "Not that it’s just families that shop this but we’ve noticed that there are more families than not."

How the services compare:

Locations:

  • King Soopers – 81 locations in Colorado with curbside pickup
  • Walmart – 28 locations with pick up
  • Safeway – 8 locations with drive up and go

Price:

  • Walmart – free pickup
  • King Soopers – $4.95, first 3 are free
  • Safeway - $4.95, can get free pickup with promo codes and offers

Other features:

  • Walmart can track your phone so it knows when you’ve arrived at the store.
  • King Soopers and Safeway allow you to add specific notes and requests to each item in your cart.

While pick-up is a popular and inexpensive option, many customers are willing to pay a premium to have their groceries delivered at home. Grocery chains have jumped on this bandwagon, largely to compete with the Goliath of online shopping, Amazon.

After purchasing Whole Foods, Amazon began offering Amazon Fresh delivery service in the Denver metro this year. It’s only for Amazon Prime members, and you pay a monthly fee of $14.99.

Customers may be able to find better deals for delivery by using the options now offered by Safeway, King Soopers and Walmart.

“It really depends on how quick you want your groceries,” said Kris Staaf, a public affairs director with Safeway. “If you want them in an hour or less it’s going to cost you a little bit more,” she added.

Safeway has a fleet of its own trucks delivering groceries around the metro area. It also has a partnership with Instacart to offer a rush delivery service.

King Soopers also has a partnership with Instacart to offer grocery delivery. Walmart has partnered with DoorDash for deliveries.

How they compare:

  • Safeway – around $9.95 for typical delivery
  • King Soopers - $11.95
  • Walmart - $7.95 - $9.95
  • Amazon Fresh – Prime membership plus 14.95 per month

The Future of Grocery Delivery

While the major grocery chains are offering more options than ever, they’re not stopping here.

Albertson’s, which owns Safeway, announced this week a trial partnership with Takeoff Technologies to test a robotic grocery fulfillment system. The robots pick the groceries then deliver them to a human employee to finish the order.

In August, Walmart announced it’s working with a startup to launch “Alphabot," which will automatically bring items from storage to associates.

And Kroger, the parent company of King Soopers, has signed an exclusive deal with Ocado, a U.K.-based online grocer. The company will roll out around 20 warehouses in the U.S. in the next three years. On YouTube, you can see videos of the company’s robotically operated warehouses.

King Soopers’ Williamson believes the partnership will help their grocery stores restock items so they can fulfill more orders. But he does not believe it will be the end of the human employee.

“I think there’s always going to be that personal interaction, and that brick and mortar approach is still  very important. I think people still want to come in and see someone and talk to someone and have that friend or neighbor who works at the store.”

Even with these modern services, it’s typical to see the same associate every time you pick up your groceries. And you know they’ve done the shopping themselves.

“If I wouldn’t buy it I’m not going to give it to the customer,” said one personal shopper at the Walmart in Brighton.

She added her store has a lot of regulars.

“It’s kind of nice. You get to know them."