CARTERET, N.J. -- In a move to compete in the growing on-line shopping arena, wholesaler White Rose Foods here will provide a Web site that allows consumers to access home-shopping services offered by selected White Rose retailer members in the New York City area. The wholesaler expects to launch the service later this month.
White Rose will operate all the functions of the Web page, while retailers will take care of selecting items from their shelves and delivering them.
By accessing the White Rose-sponsored Web site, www.easygrocer.com, customers will be able to select a supermarket, after entering their ZIP code, from a list of participating stores in their area, according to George Conklin, vice president of White Rose.
Once the on-line customers choose the desired supermarket location, they will have the ability to select and order items from the store directly through their personal computers.
Each retailer page on the easygrocer.com site will be equipped with its own individual product list, which, according to Conklin, will include nearly all the stockkeeping units the retailer carries. "The prices on-line will be the same as the list prices in the store," he added.
Participating retailers will be able to access the site in order to receive a printout of each customer's order, as well as credit-card information, which they will process through their point-of-sale system. Initially, Conklin said, on-line customers will be charged a $7 delivery fee.
White Rose, which services retailers from Maryland to Connecticut, has been developing the on-line portion of the home-shopping program for the past six months, he said.
The Web site will initially be advertised at the point of sale in participating retailers' supermarkets, as well as in the regular newspaper ads placed by Met and Pioneer, two major White Rose affiliates located in New York City. Conklin said White Rose plans to have 50 retailers on the Web site by late 1999, servicing New York City's five boroughs and Nassau County, Long Island.
"We want to try to recreate the supermarket atmosphere on-line," Conklin said. "With concrete stores in the neighborhood, the shopper can talk directly with the local grocer if there's a concern. We see it as a viable way to market groceries."
White Rose's decision to offer the framework for on-line shopping is in response to the emergence of retailers and third-party companies offering similar consumer-direct services.
The New York metro area has recently seen the introduction of two third-party home-shopping services: YourGrocer, Port Chester, N.Y., which offers products in bulk sizes, and Peapod, Skokie, Ill., which works with Edwards Super Food Stores, part of Ahold USA's Giant Food Stores division, based in Carlisle, Pa., to offer consumer-direct services.
"We want to provide services to our stores that they can't provide for themselves," Conklin said. "We're trying to allow our retailers to stay competitive with the people coming into the on-line market and doing similar types of things.
"Third-party on-line retailers are placing themselves in a position to be a real threat to traditional retailers," Conklin said. "We have the point of view that our local retailer can serve the customers better than some of these on-line services.
"I definitely think [on-line shopping] will grow, though I don't think it will replace any stores," he added.
Although some of White Rose's members have been skeptical about offering on-line shopping, Conklin said many have shown a great deal of interest in tying their resources together to offer these services to consumers via the Internet.