September 30, 2008, 12:00 AM

Coborn’s grocery brings back SimonDelivers.com

Within weeks after shutting down its operations, SimonDelivers.com has emerged as a unit of Coborn’s Inc., an operator of several Midwest grocery chains. The online operation will now be known as CobornsDelivers.com and handle web orders for pick-up at stores.

Unlike some predecessors, such as the former Webvan Inc., which died in the early days of e-commerce after failing to perfect its business plan, online grocery service SimonDelivers.com has been brought back to life to deliver another day.

Within weeks after shutting down its operations, SimonDelivers has re-emerged as a unit of Coborn’s Inc., a St. Cloud, Minn.-based operator of several Midwest grocery chains under brand names including Coborn’s, Cash Wise, Holiday Stationstore, Little Duke’s and Save-A-Lot Foods. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

SimonDelivers.com will be known as CobornsDelivers.com and begin operations in October in Minneapolis and St. Paul, a Coborn’s spokesman says. Coborn’s has no immediate plans to make CobornsDelivers.com a bigger brand that competes with other national web grocers such as Peapod.com, he adds.

Coborn’s has annual sales of more than $850 million, according to Hoovers.com, a corporate research site.

SimonDelivers.com succumbed to cost pressure and waning customer interest and ended operations at the end of July. The company began serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area in 1999 and was an early retailer of online groceries, using a central warehouse location and contracting with local farmers for produce. During its span of business, SimonDelivers.com delivered about four million orders to about 180,000 customers.

The SimonDelivers.com franchise will benefit from Coborn’s greater operating economies of scale, the spokesman says. Coborn’s operates its own bakery, distribution center and central commissary. “This new online initiative will benefit from our centralized organization,” he says.

Coborn’s isn’t a newcomer to online grocery retailing, although the company has been operating on a very small scale, the spokesman says. “We’ve been offering a web-based home delivery option in about seven of our stores for quite some time,” he says. When CobornsDelivers.com goes live, customers will be able to reactivate their accounts and access their shopping histories, he says.

paul@verticalwebmedia.com

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