Posted by Barry Silverstein on August 25, 2010 12:00 PM
UK consumers who think shopping for food is a drag have an alternative — at least in Baldock, Hertfordshire. The Tesco Extra concept store that opened there this week is a first for Tesco and the UK: it offers a "drive-thru" service. It's an idea seemingly made for America; will Brits bite?
As the Guardian notes, it isn't literally a drive-through store: A customer orders groceries online, specifying a two-hour window in which the groceries will be picked up, then drives to the Tesco Extra store. The store's staff packs the ordered items in the customer's car, without the customer ever stepping foot in the supermarket.
It's just the latest offering from the UK's biggest (there are twice as many Tesco outlets open 24/7 than police stations) and most innovative grocery chain.
Tesco already offers online shopping via its Tesco Direct service, offering grocery delivery to the customer's home. The chain also provides a holiday version of online shopping, which features delivery to a "holiday address" if the customer is visiting a relative or friend, or staying at another location for the holidays. In addition, the customer can pre-order delivery of grocery items timed for home delivery after returning from a holiday getaway.
The new drive-through service allows more flexibility, according to Tesco. Laura Wade-Gery, CEO of Tesco Direct, tells the Guardian, "This will be especially popular with busy mums who have the school run and children's activities to manage. It also offers a solution to parents who want to avoid the challenge of shopping in a busy store with children in tow but can't afford the time to stay in for the shop to arrive at their door."
If the concept is successful, Tesco plans to start rolling it out across the UK this year, including the first ever airport-based Tesco, with an Extra outlet planned for Glasgow's airport in Scotland.
The move is part of Tesco's ongoing strategy to shore up its UK operation and goose its global growth. Tesco is the Great Britain's leading supermarket chain and it has diversified into everything from original films to planned communities, and banking, pet insurance and telecoms.
That said, it can't rest on those laurels, and increasingly faces stiff competition in the UK and beyond, so it must continue to look for ways to innovate and gain a competitive advantage. Tesco Express, a hybrid online/real world service, is just one piece of that puzzle.