All of this could be just a drone away – photo – Karen Anderson
I recently wrote about Corner Grocers and some other grocery shopping trends for CBC Radio One’s Alberta at Noon. I talked about the money Amazon is spending on research to make home delivery – by small aircraft drones – of groceries (and many other items under five pounds – which is 86% of their business) a reality. Some of you might have thought that was a little far-fetched but it turns out that strides they are making towards turning this into a reality are happening very close to home.
As this article from The Guardian describes, Amazon is testing its delivery drones in our own backyard in beautiful British Columbia. Alberta has set aside 700 nautical square miles for testing drones beyond visual capacity. According to The Guardian, Amazon believes that ultimately drones will be faster, safer and more environmentally and economically friendly.
I usually tune out when someone “drones on” but this trend has me riveted. I’ll always want to visit farmers’ markets for my fresh groceries for the love of the community that comes with that type of shopping but I’d be quite happy for my toilet paper to fly the friendly Canadian skies and be delivered to my front door. My bottom and my bottom line will both be happier with less time in the car and the big box stores.
Corner Grocer Goodies – photo – Karen Anderson
Loblaws, Canada’s largest grocer, announced this week that they will add 50 stores and spend $1.2 billion on expanding their network and distribution. Walmart echoed this push announcing $300 million in expansion. Big chains are getting bigger. That is not a story.
The stories in the grocery world right now, for me, are two trends I’ve been watching.
One is happening in a big way south of the border with Amazon dot com. They’ve been a distributor of all things since the 90s and 15,000 dry good groceries for a good part of that. Now, in their home base of Seattle and Los Angeles, if you join Amazon Fresh and pay a fee of about 200 dollars a year, you can order online from a wide variety of grocers and specialty stores for home delivery. As you long as you order by 11 p.m. – for most items – that which you desire will arrive on your doorstep by 6 a.m. the next morning. No wonder Loblaws are looking into e-commerce to broaden their distribution. They might be looking at some very empty big boxes of stores if this catches on in Canada. They’ll have to go some to catch Amazon who’ve been doing e-everything since the 90s and who just spent $750 million on their inventory robotics systems. Now that is a big story but it’s not the one I’m going to focus on.
The trend I’m going to focus on is the opposite of big. It’s small in every way. It’s the revival of the corner grocer.