TOPEKA, Kan. -- J.M. Bauersfeld's here plans to launch a home-shopping service this summer that will allow customers to order groceries using a touch-tone phone.
The service will initially be available within the city limits of Topeka, where the retailer's three stores are located, and then branch into the surrounding county.
"In the first several months, it's probably not going to be a profitable venture until we understand how to do it and get some of our own bugs worked out," said Kevin Miller, general manager. "I would think within six months to a year we would be at a point where it's not costing us money but making a little money. That's my goal."
Because no other stores in the Topeka market are offering a home-shopping program, Bauersfeld's hopes to gain a competitive edge and attract new customers. The service may appeal to elderly or physically impaired people who can't easily go outside or don't want to shop, as well as people simply too busy to food shop.
Miller said offering the touch-tone phone service, probably via a toll-free number, will make it easy for customers to use. This order method is cost-efficient because store labor will not be required to take orders.
To use the service, shoppers will need to enter an access code over their phone. Once in the system, customers will input product item numbers listed in an 8,000-item catalog, now in development. The home-shopping system will convert this information into an order for the retailer to fill.
Customers will pay for their orders by check or credit card.
Customers will be assured that the prices of the items available through home shopping are the same as the shelf prices in the store, because the home shopping system uses data from the store's point-of-sale system, according to a source familiar with the program.
Delivery issues, including service charges, have not yet been determined. One method being considered is to use existing drive-throughs as pickup points for home shoppers. Currently the drive-through is used as a pickup point for groceries purchased in the store. One idea being considered to make the home shopping program cost-effective is to encourage use by groups of people, such as those in retirement homes. Miller said if retirement communities can generate large enough orders, the retailer might even be able to offer shoppers there special rates.
The software for the home shopping system comes from Innovative Retail Solutions, Redwood Falls, Minn.