Wed | Oct 18, 2017

Hi-Lo going online - Grocery-shopping platform, deliveries for next year

Published:Sunday | September 24, 2017 | 12:00 AMAvia Collinder
A Hi-Lo supermarket in Liguanea, Kingston.

Hi-Lo supermarket will be developing an online shopping platform, which it plans to roll out next year.

Groceries ordered and paid for through the platform will be delivered to households, at additional cost, says General Manager of Hi-Lo Food Stores Renee Nathan.

For the GraceKennedy-owned grocery chain, which is currently spending $1 billion on upgrading key stores, the new shopping mode allows it to increase its market reach beyond Jamaica.

"The platform will also enable customers overseas to shop and have products delivered to their loved ones," Nathan said on Friday.

As to the infrastructure to be developed around the e-commerce initiative, including inventory management, deliveries, and customer support, Nathan said that the project was a work in progress and that the details, including the investment to be made, were to be finalised.

The supermarket chain will be working with different partners to service its customers.

"We are still developing our plans, but many of these functions will be outsourced," she said, while citing grocery deliveries to customers as one of those areas in which Hi-Lo would be working with a third party. "There will be a charge for the added convenience of delivery," she added.

Hi-Lo operates 13 stores across Jamaica, which the company is currently modernising. On Thursday, Hi-Lo unveiled its renovated Portmore store, a 24,000 square-foot operation, that includes expanded product offerings, a dine-in deli, a bakery and a juice bar, and a branch of First Global Bank.

Hi-Lo Portmore is the fifth in the chain to undergo a facelift since 2015. GraceKennedy has spent US$5 million to date on the project. Its next target is the Cross Roads store in Kingston next year, followed by Spanish Town, St Catherine.

Nathan said that the ecommerce initiative is not meant to be a substitute to the physical stores.

"We see online as a complement to existing brick-and-mortar locations, and, as such, we plan to continue to grow in both spaces," she said.

"We expect for this new platform to become increasingly significant to our business over time as our customers' lives become more hectic and they seek convenient ways to shop," the Hi-Lo GM said even while declining to comment on the amount of revenue generated by the chain overall.

Hi-Lo's chief rival is the Progressive Grocers consortium, whose partners operate individual grocery businesses but who also own some brands cooperatively numbering 30 stores overall.

Neither Progressive Grocers nor its individual members are known to sell their groceries online through a structured platform, putting Hi-Lo ahead of them in the area of e-commerce.

Hi-Lo's online shopping platform is to be rolled out in the fourth quarter of 2018.

"Our focus is to be able to serve and engage our customers across multiple channels, so customers can have a great shopping experience with Hi-Lo how and when they choose," Nathan said.

The chain has operated in Jamaica for 32 years.

avia.collinder@gleanerjm.com