OPINION: Lessons in home delivery from an independent retailer

Independent convenience retailer Jai Singh discusses the lessons he learned when introducing home delivery to his Sheffield business

Lessons in home delivery from an independent retailer

At the beginning of March when customers started to stockpile goods in a way we had never experienced before and the scale of the Covid-19 pandemic became apparent, we had no time to think about home delivery in our store or anything other than keeping stocked and customers served.

Like most other independent neighbourhood stores, it was about a fortnight before we could take stock of what was happening, and then the lockdown was brought in.

On 17 March, Reverend Andy from St Paul’s Church and I made video and posted it on social media to offer to deliver groceries to vulnerable residents in the community. This was the first time that we had offered a delivery service and, with a volunteer team of deliverers organised by Rev. Andy, we quickly started to receive orders.

For several weeks, the online supermarket websites struggled with the huge increase in demand and an elderly resident, who had used online deliveries for some time so had never been a customer of my store, reached out to us in desperation. It has been a learning experience for both the customer and myself. She did not think that we would be able to provide the choice that the big supermarket had done and I was totally unaware of the potential basket spend of a shopper wanting home delivery.

Read more: Coronavirus: How to provide a delivery service to support vulnerable customers

The customer phones her order in each week and has been surprised that we have been able to provide every product that she has on her list. She says that while she has been very surprised at breadth of our range, with a smile in her voice she says that she hopes to catch us out one day by asking for a product that we do not stock.

For me, the size of the customer’s order each week, at around £80, has been the surprise, and hers is not the only order of this size. It takes us 10 customers in store to reach this sort of value and I now view grocery home delivery as an important part of my business’s future strategy.

We started with phoned in orders and lists dropped off in the store. In May, we added  the Basket app as our online store front. With the church volunteers undertaking the physical deliveries, my starting point proposition with Basket has been click & collect to avoid confusion.

During the weeks of lockdown and self-isolation, the volume of the delivered business has been a real surprise to both my wife Mandeep and me. Along with what has seemed like an unexpected opportunity to showcase the now five-year old store to our community, I can see that making home deliveries part of our offer to our community is a positive move. Our new elderly customer certainly thinks this as she has no intention of ordering from the supermarket again.

Find out more on our coronavirus information hub for retailers


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