Wegmans declares strong start to grocery delivery

August 08, 2017 08:54 PM

Grocery delivery started in Rochester Tuesday with hometown supermarket Wegmans declaring success.

"I am definitely ready to sign up for it," exclaimed Kasia Zubrzycki of Henrietta as she left her local Wegmans.  "I am a stay-at-home mom and my husband and I only have one car so it's really great for when I'm suddenly out of paper towels or something."

Under a partnership with online delivery service Instacart, employees from Instacart, "shoppers," take orders online, pick merchandise up in stores and then deliver the groceries to customers at home.

"Really they are acting as an avatar for the customer in the store," explained Kyle  Carnes of Instacart. "They are their eyes and ears, shopping for them.  The customer can follow along in real time. If things are out of stock… maybe they want to add to their order… our shoppers are able to do that."

The premium shopping service does come at a premium price. Instacart charges a fee of $5.99 for a delivery. Customers can also add an extra 10 percent, effectively a tip, although Instacart does not encourage tipping, and the price of each item delivered is also marked up by Wegmans from its in-store and discount prices. That price increase varies, in some instances widely, from item to item.

According to a quick survey by News10NBC, a one gallon bottle of Wegmans store brand skim milk, which would cost $1.79 at the store was listed at $2.19 on the Instacart/Wegmans website, a 22 percent increase.

An economy sized package of Wegmans store brand disposable diapers priced at $25.99 in the store was $29.39  on the website, a 13 percent markup. And while brand name Kellogg's corn flakes were marked up 11 percent from $3.49 a box in the store to $3.89 delivered, Wegmans store brand corn flakes jumped a much steeper 35 percent from a discount price of $1.69 a box in the store to $2.29 a box online.

"When you're shopping and checking out, you know exactly what the item costs. You know with the service fee and the delivery fee will be," said Carnes. "When you use the service, you'll tell that it's actually super valuable and can help you add a bunch of time back to your life. "

Zubrzycki agreed.  “Just your convenience," she said.  Sometimes you have to pay a little extra for convenience."

Carnes suggested that Instacart's service would suit a wide variety of customers including young professionals seeking convenience as well as busy families pressed for time and older people who may have trouble getting out to shop.

Wegmans reported customers enthusiastically adopting the service on its first day, particularly at its East Avenue location in Rochester where a surge of Instacart shoppers in their distinctive lanyards and T-shirts descended on the store Thursday morning.

While Rochester is Wegmans' hometown it came late on the list of locations where it launched Instacart and grocery delivery.  The company tried it out in larger and more congested metropolitan areas first.

"We first launched this in Virginia, Maryland, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts," explained Jo Vitale with Wegmans. "Of course, those are places were ordering online and home delivery is not unusual, whereas in upstate New York it is."

Instacart reported its service would be available for much of the Rochester metropolitan area. Customers seeking to sign up for deliveries were encouraged to go to the website and enter their zip codes to find out if the service is available in their communities.

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