TAMPA — Publix Super Markets Inc. on Tuesday kicked off its latest test in online shopping — for those willing to pony up $7.99 per order for the convenience.
After officials decided their new 10-person Publix Curbside crew had enough practice, the Lakeland grocery chain launched the service at a lone Citrus Park store one month ahead of schedule. The chain's other test in a single Atlanta store opened last month.
Both are designed for the time-stressed willing to pay a premium to have someone shop for them.
It's the Lakeland chain's second swing at e-commerce since giving up on Publix Direct, which offered online ordering and home delivery for $7.99 across South Florida. That service, which required its own warehouse and truck fleet for home delivery, was scuttled in 2003 after losing $30 million in two years. Trucks averaged only 10 deliveries a day.
The new version, which uses a third party contractor to handle online orders, is similar to one Albertsons and several other supermarket chains have offered in selected big city markets for years.
Called click-and-collect in the industry because shoppers do all the driving, here's how the Publix version works.
• Shoppers register online at publix.com/curbside and place their orders. There is space to key in notes such as preferences for green bananas or thin slice lunch meat at the deli. The site keeps your shopping list for repeat trips. For now, the first shopping trip is free.
• Choose a 30-minute time window to pick up the order between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., seven days a week. Normally Publix wants a four-hour head start. Publix clerks shop the store to fill orders in specially marked carts. They use handheld computers to confirm with a bar code scan that they picked the right items.
• Drive to the Citrus Park Publix at 7835 Gunn Highway in Northwest Hillsborough County where three parking spaces are reserved for curbside pickup and summon the clerk on the intercom.
• At curbside one clerk accepts coupons and takes payments while a second loads the vehicle. Payment by PIN debit card requires a trip inside unless it can be processed as a credit card.
Publix plans to expand the test to more stores if it connects with enough customers.
Mark Albright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8252.