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Co-op expands robot deliveries to Northampton

UK convenience retailer Co-op will now offer deliveries via robot in a second UK town after the success of the launch in Milton Keynes.

The service will now be available to customers within three miles of the Co-op store in Wootton Fields, Northampton, reaching around 5000 households in total.

Customers pay a small fee and select their order from a 1000 product range featured on the Starship app; it is sent to staff at the nearest Co-op store, who then pick and pack it. The customer drops a pin on the map, which the robot then navigates to.

Co-op’s plan is for the service to be available from 1000 stores using 300 Starship robots by the end of 2020.

The partnership first began in early 2018 from one store in Milton Keynes but is now available in eight, with six added since March 2020.

According to the Co-op, the number of customers using robot deliveries has grown vastly since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.

Chris Conway, head of ecommerce, Co-op, said: “We continue to look for new ways to innovate and expand access to our products and services to deliver a truly compelling offer for consumers.

“Our partnership with Starship enables Co-op to offer further availability, flexibility and choice to meet community shopping needs for on-demand convenience.

“We have seen big changes in ecommerce this year with new customers using the channel that have never used it before, and seeing the benefits. Offering quality and value quickly, easily and conveniently is core to Co-op’s approach – delivering what our Members and customers want, when and where they need it.”

Andrew Curtis, Head of UK Operations at Starship Technologies, said: “We are thrilled to expand our service in the UK and bring robot delivery to neighbourhoods across Northampton from today.

“We have been humbled by the fantastic reception to our robots from local communities in Milton Keynes over the last two and a half years. This is the next step in our growth ambitions as Starship looks to further roll out our services across the UK following increasing demand during the pandemic.”

Co-op launched its own online shop in 2019 and 2020. It also works with third parties such as Deliveroo, Bumie and Pinga in certain cities. The company’s challenge is to bring its model of “top-up” shopping, where customers regularly buy small selections of items rather than large weekly shops, to the online market.

As the online channel has higher built-in costs due to the delivery to the customer, retailers have struggled to make it profitable. Larger supermarkets such as Tesco tend to charge delivery fees which are waived over a certain amount.

The Co-op’s partnership with Deliveroo and Starship taps into the customer’s demand for convenience and charges a small fixed fee for each transaction.