The three major shop-at-home service providers are staking out their share of territory as home shopping continues to expand in the supermarket industry. The following are thumbnail sketches on each provider and the companies' priorities for the near future:
a major Internet presence. Its first on-line program is set to begin this month with Vons Cos., Arcadia, Calif.
"Our focus is to accelerate on-line growth but not at the expense of abandoning our core customer base," Olson said.
Shoppers Express is also focusing on "vertically integrating" service: controlling all aspects of its program from order-taking to delivery.
Shopping Alternatives, Bethesda, Md.
Kevin Sheehan, president
The company serves eight retailers and plans to sign three more in the next few months. It plans to enhance the delivery segment of its business by bringing operations in-house for its high-volume markets.
"We're convinced more than ever that order fulfillment is the most important piece of this industry," said Dave Cromwell, director of operations. The company controls all operations for its Atlanta market and plans to expand to further markets in the future.
Technology also remains a priority, with Shopping Alternatives planning to step up the use of its World Wide Web page for downloading ordering software. The company is also considering the potential of interactive television for the future.
Peapod, Evanston, Ill.
Robert Nagel, president
The company services two retailers in San Francisco and Chicago and plans to enter the Boston market at some point this year. Peapod remains committed to its program's structure and plans to continue to refine it rather than introduce new technologies.
The regional nature of the company's business, which encompasses about 15,000 customers for Jewel Food Stores, Oak Ridge, Ill., and Safeway, Oakland, Calif., may be at odds with a major expansion onto the Internet, Nagel said.
Peapod said its current private computer network, which handles about 85% of its orders, works well and sees no need to link up with the Internet or commercial on-line services.
"Since we have a private communication network with local dial-up numbers, why would a customer want to pay an Internet service provider for Internet time?" Nagel said.