ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Furr's Supermarkets, a 70-store chain here, is testing an Internet-based home-shopping service, joining larger retailers such as Hannaford Bros. and services such as Peapod and NetGrocer in the hunt for customers in cyberspace.
Furr's has been testing an on-line shopping and delivery service for more than a month with employees of about a dozen companies in the Albuquerque area, according to a source familiar with the project.
While Furr's officials would not disclose details, the chain confirmed it is testing an on-line shopping and delivery service.
"We believe Furr's Online is the most integrated, full-service on-line supermarket available in the U.S. today," Furr's president Buz Doyle said in a statement provided by the retailer.
"Test customers report time savings and love the convenience this system offers them," said Melissa Porter, director of non-traditional commerce for Furr's. "During testing, our customers have been particularly impressed with the quality of the perishable products they have received, a testament to the professionalism of our fulfillment experts," she stated.
The site, www.furrs.com, is not currently available to visitors other than participants in the test.
Employees placing their orders on-line can have the items delivered to work, or they can pick up their items at one of six stores in the Albuquerque area.
The on-line shopping system is integrated with Furr's frequent-shopper database and point-of-sale system, the source said. Orders are transmitted to the store, where employees view the orders on handheld radio frequency-based devices and pick items from store shelves. Once the customer's items are picked, the transaction is sent to the retailer's point-of-sale system to process the payment.
"When they go to close out at the end of the day, the Internet orders look like the 71st store, so all of the accounting and processing is handled just as if the transaction had taken place at the store, and the frequent-shopper data is captured as well," the source said.
Users currently testing the on-line service can choose a 90-minute window in which their delivery will be ready for pick-up, either the same day the order was placed or the following day. Users picking up their orders at the store can choose the time and store where they will pick up their order.
About 15,000 perishable and nonperishable items are available from the on-line grocery service. "Anything you can buy in a Furr's store you can order on-line," the source said.
Since items are picked from the store shelves, rather than from a warehouse, users can include notes about substitutions with their orders. "There is no way of knowing 100% that a particular item will be on the store shelf because you don't know what has been sold between the time the order was placed and it is picked," the source said. "Ultimately, as the service expands, the orders will be picked from a warehouse, where there is more control over the items available."
Users can also note special requests in the system, the source said. "They can say 'bananas not too ripe with just a few brown spots.' When the order picker pulls up their order, they see the note."
While the on-line shopping service is currently limited to test participants, Furr's eventually plans to roll out the service chainwide and provide home delivery in addition to office delivery and the option to pick up the items at the store, the source said.
Unlike some supermarkets that have developed Internet-based shopping services using in-house technology staff, Furr's is using a third-party provider, I-Way Corp., Newport Beach, Calif. VeriFone, Santa Clara, Calif., is providing the payment-processing system for the site.