FOSTER CITY, Calif. -- The Webvan Group here has added books to its growing list of nonfood products in an effort to provide added convenience for on-line grocery shoppers.
An initial 80 titles of hard and softcover bestsellers, children's, cooking and wine books were introduced earlier this month. The number will eventually grow to some 300 different selections, Bud Greeby, Webvan's director of corporate affairs told SN.
The on-line food retailer, which plans to expand outside the San Francisco Bay area into 26 markets over the next three years, also announced this month that it would beef up its nonfood offering in conjunction with new market rollouts.
"We are aggressively expanding our product offering beyond groceries to give our customers a breadth and depth of choices when they shop with Webvan," said George T. Shaheen, president and chief executive officer.
According to Greeby, the company was encouraged to add books to its offering based on customer preferences. "When customers were asked to name the items they would like added on to Webvan, books was one topic that came up with a high frequency," Greeby said.
"We continue to offer [our customers] value-added products and services that save them money and time," added Shaheen.
Webvan executives say its book prices are competitive with other Web bookstores, and it pits itself against on-line book retailers like Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com. However, in comparing prices of Webvan hardcover titles to Amazon.com and Barnesandnoble.com, Webvan retails were several dollars higher than the two major on-line book retailers. For example, Webvan is selling "Atlantis Found" by Clive Cussler for $16.17, compared to Amazon's $13.48 retail and Barnesandnoble's $13.47 price. "False Memory" by Dean Koontz is selling for $16.17 on Webvan, compared to $13.48 on Amazon and $13.47 on Barnesandnoble. The popular children's title "Harry Potter & the Chamber Secrets" by J.K. Rowling retails for $10.77 on Webvan. Through Amazon, it is priced at $8.98 and $8.97 through Barnesandnoble.
Webvan intends to build its book sales by focusing on the best sellers and specialty books, "the fastest moving titles in the most demand," Greeby said. "Books is a category that we can accommodate within our business model," Greeby explained. "But we'll never be the size of bricks-and-mortar bookstores," he pointed out.
Webvan offers its books under its "Specialty Shop" section, along with other nonfood items like home and office supplies, games, home decor, fresh flowers and U.S. postage stamps.
Ingram Book Co., La Vergne, Tenn., is Webvan's book supplier. Books orders are delivered to customers by courier free for purchases above $50, and for orders under $50, a $4.95 delivery fee is charged.