CINCINNATI -- Kroger Co. here will test a new home shopping concept using interactive television.
The retailer's Dallas KMA division will launch a pilot program in Denton, Texas, next month as part of an interactive cable TV network serving about 250 households.
Cable subscribers will be able to use their TV remote control devices to order any item carried in the Denton store, according to Kroger officials.
"It is a pilot program to see what kind of market there is for [consumers] using cable TV to order groceries," said Paul Bernish, director of corporate affairs.
After the pilot begins, the home shopping service may incorporate other Kroger stores operating within the cable network's area, said a source familiar with the program. "The concept is to allow the consumers to shop over the interactive channel at the Kroger store closest to them," he said.
"We are thrilled to be the first supermarket chain to provide the convenience of home grocery shopping through interactive television," said Lyle Yates, president of Kroger's Dallas division, in a statement.
Kroger will monitor how many orders result from the Denton pilot before committing to any broader rollouts, Bernish said.
Shoppers can access the home shopping service via a new cable provider called Interactive Channel, Dallas, which broadcasts over the existing cable infrastructure.
The Interactive Channel will announce plans to expand its services nationally early next month, creating the potential for Kroger eventually to expand its service. "All our divisions will probably take a look at it," Bernish said.
Kroger stores within the Dallas division have been offering at-home shopping through telephone and fax services for about two years and interactive TV service is the next logical step, Bernish
said. "It's just another extension of that potential."
To order merchandise from Kroger's interactive service, consumers use their remote control devices to select product categories and view full-color photographic images. Kroger will also use audio commentary.
The system creates a personal directory for shoppers after an initial order, so consumers can have certain products automatically re-ordered for them.
Customer orders transmitted via remote control are received by Kroger store-level employees. After the orders are selected, they are delivered by Shoppers Express, Bethesda, Md.
A similar but unrelated pilot test of interactive TV home shopping is currently under way via another cable provider, Time-Warner Cable, New York. The service, available to 4,000 households in Orlando, Fla., is expected to involve Winn-Dixie Stores, Jacksonville, Fla.