BOISE, Idaho -- Albertson's here last week entered the click-and-mortar world of e-retailing with the opening in Bellevue, Wash., a Seattle suburb, of its first Albertsons.com Store and Fulfillment Site.
Equity analysts, who tend to be wary of Internet food retailing, gave the Albertson's plan good reviews, calling it a low-risk way to test the e-commerce waters.
Albertson's said the facility offers shoppers "multiple points of contact." Shoppers can place orders via the Internet for home delivery or store pickup. They can go to the store, load their carts and pay at the checkout counter, just as in any conventional supermarket. Or they can go to the store and place their orders via one of the computer terminals available at the store for home delivery or store pickup.
Shoppers opting for delivery pay a $5.95 fee for orders under $60, but orders of $60 or more are delivered free.
The 31,000-square-foot facility features a 17,000-square-foot conventional supermarket and a 14,000-square-foot "fulfillment area," which is essentially a warehouse.
Jenny Enochson, company spokeswoman, explained the store will attempt to fill orders from the fulfillment area, with fill-ins from the store shelves as needed.
She also said the store has roughly the same number of employees as a conventional Albertson's of similar size, although many employees at the dotcom store are doing different jobs, such as packing or delivering orders. The Bellevue unit has 30 delivery trucks, she said.
Depending on how the new store catches on with the public, Albertson's is prepared to open additional units in the Seattle metro area, Enochson said. She added that it was too early to speculate about other metro areas where the company might open dotcom stores.
Enochson also said the Bellevue system is very different from the on-line shopping opportunities Albertson's offers in Texas.
"In Texas we haven't linked bricks and mortar to on-line fulfillment. In Texas, we don't sell perishables on-line. In Texas, we don't have delivery vans," she said, adding that the only retailer she knew that had a click-and-mortar operation similar to Albertsons.com was The Gap.
Analysts said they thought Albertson's plan to link on-line shopping with a conventional supermarket was sound.
Gary Giblen, New York-based managing director of Bank of America Securities (formerly Banc of America Montgomery Securities), San Francisco, said, "It's a darn good idea. Seattle has perfect demographics for on-line shopping, and Albertson's isn't going to lose sales in the store because of the on-line component; it's only going to pick up sales."
Jonathan Ziegler, San Francisco-based equity analyst at Deutsche Bank/Alex Brown, New York, said, "Albertson's is trying to learn who the enemy is and what the customer wants."