August 16, 2010, 3:59 PM

Publix launches its second e-commerce attempt

Grocer introduces Publix Curbside in Atlanta, working with service provider MyWebGrocer.

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Grocery retailer Publix has added online ordering combined with curbside pickup service as part of a program called Publix Direct. The supermarket chain is testing the service at one location in Atlanta, with another store in Tampa, FL, to be added soon. The online ordering service is being provided by MyWebGrocer.

“As we look to enhance our customer loyalty, services and options to help our customers save time, we felt the time was right to test Publix Curbside,” a Publix spokeswoman says. Publix has more than 1,000 grocery stores located in the southeastern United States. It has annual retail sales of about $24.3 billion and is ranked as the seventh-largest U.S. supermarket chain by revenue by trade publication Supermarket News.

Publix shuttered its previous online grocery business, PublixDirect, in 2003 after two years in operation. That service provided online ordering and delivery to the customer’s home. Publix Curbside does not offer delivery. The Curbside program will be tested for 12 months, the spokeswoman says.

MyWebGrocer operates the web site and manages the online ordering process. Products ordered through are picked by personnel at the selected store location. Personnel are trained by MyWebGrocer to use handheld devices preloaded with the store layout, which helps the picker complete the shop faster, says Tim Kenney, MyWebGrocer’s chief operating officer.

When ordering online, a shopper specifies a 30-minute pickup window and pays and picks up her order at a drive-through window at the Atlanta store. The Tampa location will have parking spaces designated for Curbside customers. Online shoppers pay the same prices as in-store shoppers, plus a $7.99 service fee per order. Kenney says the average basket size for an online grocery order across all of MyWebGrocer’s clients is more than $150.

Kenney says the design of the Publix system takes regional language variances into account. “Grocery shopping online is different than shopping for a TV. It is very search- and category-driven. It has to be smart and regionalized, such as when a customer searches for flapjacks versus pancakes,” Kenney says.

MyWebGrocer provides online shopping programs for about 70 grocers, including Harris Teeter, Lowes Foods, Raley’s and A&P.

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