Countdown opens country’s first 24-hour eStore to service massive online shopping demand

Countdown is today opening New Zealand’s first purpose-built and permanent eStore in Auckland, which will help the busy supermarket business service the significant and growing demand it is seeing for online shopping delivery.

The 8800 square metre store in Auckland’s Penrose looks like a regular supermarket, with a butchery, bakery, shelves of packaged grocery items, fresh fruit and vegetables. But there’s one critical difference in Countdown’s newest store – there’s not a customer in sight. 

Instead, a team of 200 personal shoppers (including 105 people brand new to the Countdown business), over a mix of full and part-time roles, will run the dedicated eStore and complete online orders for customers from ten of Countdown’s busiest Auckland supermarkets.

Countdown’s General Manager Digital, Sally Copland, says the Penrose eStore aids the company’s swift response to the Covid-19 demand, which has already seen six stores temporarily closed to help increase online shopping capacity and ensure delivery services can be prioritised to those most in need at this time.

“Demand for Countdown’s online shopping service was in significant growth even before the Covid-19 outbreak but the situation we are now in has made it even more critical to Penrose opening on time.

“With New Zealanders staying home for the lockdown, visits to our website have increased 300 per cent.  We are seeing ten times the amount of customer registrations than we normally would each week, and additionally we have now delivered groceries to tens of thousands of New Zealanders who registered for our priority assistance service.

“This means our new store dedicated to serving online shoppers is more important than ever,” says Sally Copland.

Operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week, the 8800sqm Penrose eStore will have the capability to fulfil more than 7500 online orders each week, thanks to a layout based on sales data that increases picking efficiency.

The first delivery trucks will leave the store at 6am daily with the final deliveries taking place at 7pm every evening. When orders are not being picked, the eStore will be replenishing more than 25,000 products.

Online Pick Up orders will continue to be fulfilled and collected from local stores, with increased windows available at each store due to moving delivery orders to the Penrose eStore.

“Handling all online delivery orders from ten of our regular supermarkets will free up space in-store making it a better experience for both our store customers and our team,” says Sally Copland. 

“As well as increasing our delivery capacity, we’re estimating being able to triple the number of Pick Up orders processed at the stores affected as a result of these changes. This is crucial in these challenging times when we know so many people are relying on online shopping,” says Sally Copland.

Furthering the efficiency of the store, Countdown has partnered with Boston-based eGrocery startup Takeoff Technologies to soon introduce a partially-automated micro fulfilment solution at the site. The complex yet flexible unit means personal shoppers can easily access packaged goods without having to walk up and down store aisles.

“While it’s challenging at the moment, ultimately today’s customers want to order and receive their grocery shopping on the same day. This innovative technology quickly picks and moves the most popular grocery items to our personal shoppers on a conveyer belt meaning they can fulfil even more orders with ease.”

Fresh fruit and vegetables as well as meat, fish, deli items and slower-moving goods will continue to be selected manually to ensure top quality.

The new technology comes into operation later this year and will increase the service capability to 15,000 online orders a week. Until then, personal shoppers will pick all groceries manually. No jobs will be replaced by the technology.

 “After more than 20 years since launching Countdown online shopping, we are constantly innovating to provide an ultra-convenient grocery experience for Kiwis.

“We’ll continue to invest in our wonderful team as well as new technologies to enhance our mix of online delivery, online Pick Up and in-store supermarket shopping options,” says Sally Copland.

Countdown’s new eStore will service online delivery orders from the following Auckland supermarkets: Mt Wellington, St Johns, Three Kings, Mt Eden, Botany, Manukau City Mall, Meadowlands and Manurewa, with Grey Lynn Central and Ponsonby to be included at a later date.

In response to the recent increased demand, Countdown has temporarily closed its Grey Lynn Central, Northwest, Tauranga and Moorhouse stores to convert them to online orders only, and has redeployed team members from its Albert Street Metro and Cable Car Lane stores to support other stores’ online shopping needs.

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