retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a piece comparing AmazonFresh, FreshDirect and Instacart, three grocery delivery services available to New York City residents (though AmazonFresh isn't available to everyone yet).

You can read the entire anecdotal analysis here, but essentially it comes down to this...

• "Amazon’s new service, no surprise, manages to be completely terrifying in its omnipotence. The AmazonFresh inventory includes more than 500,000 items. If you want to include a lawn-mower blade or a used copy of “The Fountainhead” with your grocery delivery, you can do that." But, the reporter says, "my AmazonFresh experience was glitchy. First, the site was missing some basics you’d expect at any New York grocery, including a liter of seltzer or tin of Café Bustelo, the world’s greatest coffee.

"Searches of the massive inventory, meanwhile, can yield oddly irrelevant results. A coffee query, for example, turned up the Declaration of Independence and an apron.

"I opted to have my order quietly left at my door before 7 a.m. But when my bell rang at 7:06, two large, chipper delivery guys barreled into my hall bearing brightly colored AmazonFresh totes." Amazon says that the experience was not typical.

• "FreshDirect delivered the kind of faultless performance you’d expect from an old pro. The site was glitch-free and offered more of my preferred brands. The delivery arrived without incident."

But, she writes, "FreshDirect’s prices are, I’m sorry, berserko. The basket of groceries that cost $52 at the Key Food and $60 through AmazonFresh cost $70 at FreshDirect, plus a $5.99 delivery fee ... FreshDirect Chief Consumer Officer Jodi Kahn says the service’s prices are generally comparable to the city’s supermarkets.

"FreshDirect is a good value, she adds, because its in-house bakery and partnerships with local farms, fish and meat purveyors provide food that’s several days fresher than what you’ll find in grocery stores."

• "My favorite service was Instacart. Rather than shipping out of a centralized warehouse, Instacart has contract workers assembling orders at neighborhood supermarkets. It aims to deliver within two hours for $3.99 or within an hour for $5.99.

"Shoppers have their choice of stores. In my corner of Brooklyn, for example, Instacart customers choose from the local Whole Foods , Fairway Market , Key Food or Costco . And you don’t need a club membership to shop at the Costco.

"The service partners with each supermarket to display the store’s inventory online, and its prices are the same as you’d find inside the store ... The experience was easy and error-free."
KC's View:
New York City is a unique case because a) it's had home delivery for centuries, and b) there is enormous population density. But this is instructive ... and indicative of why everybody has to be in the home-delivery or click-and-collect game. (Or have one helluva powerful reason why not.)