Marks & Spencer has started trials for an online grocery service to find out “what works for [its] customers”, amid mounting concern among supermarkets about how Amazon may shake up the market.
M&S said it would be running two “small trials” for the service, one in Camden and the other in Woodley near Reading, both of which will be exclusive to “selected Sparks members”.
The online grocery trial in Camden will offer home delivery and cover a three mile radius, while in Woodley there will be a collection service, with orders ready in two hours.
All the items on offer in the two stores will be available to order online, M&S said. The delivery charge will be free and is being offered by Gophr, a courier service operating out of London.
M&S said it was too early to comment on how the service would run further down the line, if it was to be rolled out across the UK.
However, according to Gophr’s website, it currently serves “all of London and some of the surrounding areas”, although can “pick up in London and deliver anywhere in Britain same-day”.
Earlier this year, sources told The Sunday Telegraph that M&S and Ocado were eyeing a surprise tie-up on online grocery delivery, although it is understood M&S was also looking at other options.
It had argued that its customers tended to buy fewer items than those of its larger rivals, so it was uneconomical to offer those food deliveries.
However, the evolution of online options and popularity of M&S’s food ranges has prompted a rethink by Steve Rowe, who took the reins last year.
It comes as Amazon’s entrance into the grocery chain market sends shudders through the market, with M&S perhaps most at risk from its purchase of upmarket grocer Whole Foods.
When Amazon slashed Whole Foods’ prices the week it took ownership of Whole Foods, M&S’s shares fell the hardest out of the grocers.
Although there are just seven Whole Foods shops in the UK, investors are concerned Amazon could erode supermarkets’ profits, not least if it uses its online presence to grow its market share.
Amazon has already said it will introduce Whole Foods’ own-brands to its Amazon Fresh, Prime Pantry and Prime Now offers across 302 postcodes in London and South East, extending its grocery offering.