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Dash’s Market launches online grocery shopping

Forget lugging sacks of potatoes and schlepping shopping carts through the grocery store. Now, with the click of a few buttons, someone will gather your groceries for you, bag them and deliver them to your doorstep.

Dash’s Market is the first supermarket in Western New York to offer online grocery shopping with in-store pickup or home delivery, jumping on a national trend many believe holds the future of grocery retailing. Dash’s rolled out initial testing of the in-store pickup service earlier this week and will make delivery and pickup widely available to the public in April.

“Online grocery shopping is a small percentage of the food business, but just like any other online business, it’s going to grow, grow, grow, and we had the opportunity to be the first in,” said Mark Mahoney, Dash’s director of operations.

The concept is already in full swing in other parts of the country.

Online grocery shopping is expected to become a $17.2 billion industry by 2019, according to a report from research company IBISWorld, with revenue expected to climb by as much as 16.9 percent in 2015 alone. Millennial shoppers as well as a declining unemployment rate are driving the growth.

“Greater disposable income and less leisure time will lead many consumers to see the value in paying more for online groceries to be delivered directly to their homes,” the report said.

Both of Western New York’s largest grocery retailers have also been considering the concept.

Wegmans began piloting a “Personal Shopping” curbside pickup program at its Pittsford store a year ago, which is going “very well,” according to spokeswoman Michele Mehaffy. The company is improving its technology and streamlining its shopping, storage, loading and payment processes to make them more efficient. It has no plans to expand service to other stores any time soon, and is not planning to offer grocery delivery. The Rochester-based grocer charges $10 plus 25 cents per item for curbside pickup orders.

Tops Markets is considering both pickup and delivery. TheAmherst-based company is researching its options, studying the processes and looking into vendor partners.

“We’re always listening to shoppers, so we’re evaluating consumer demand as well as transportation logistics along with other factors to make sure that when we start the process, we’re implementing a meaningful service for our neighbors and executing it flawlessly,” said Katie McKenna, Tops spokeswoman.

Dash’s Delivery is available within an 89-mile radius that comprises all four of its store locations, in Clarence, East Amherst, Town of Tonawanda and on Hertel Avenue.

The service is expected to be popular with busy professionals, working parents, senior citizens, people with mobility issues and 16- to 25-year-olds who grew up shopping online, according to Burt Flickinger III, managing director at retail analysis firm Strategic Resource Group.

Dash’s Markets partnered with Ithaca-based software company Rosie, which provides the technology, teaches grocers how to implement the program and provides customized marketing. Users download the Rosie Smartphone application or visit www.RosieApp.com, click on the items they want to buy, pay online with a credit or debit card, then submit their shopping list to Dash’s, where the products are pulled off the shelf, bagged and set aside. Customers can place orders online any time and schedule a one-hour window to pick up or have groceries delivered between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. daily.

For delivery, someone must be present to accept the order.

Customers picking up orders will enter the store, hand over their confirmation number, and grab their bags.

Of course, there is a premium for that convenience. Grocery pickup costs a flat fee of $2.99, and each individual item bears a variable percentage price markup. A gallon of Upstate Farms whole milk, for example, costs $4.29 when ordered online, but costs just $3.99 when you take it off the shelf yourself. For delivery, there is a flat fee of $4.99, plus the driver’s tip. Rosie does not accept coupons, but all of Dash’s sale prices will be honored when ordered online.

The added costs associated with click-and-collect are necessary to pay for the labor-intensive practice of pulling customers’ items and paying for the software system that coordinates the orders. The retailer tends not to profit on handling costs, but breaks even, Flickinger said.

Though ordering groceries online is more expensive for consumers, there are plenty of shoppers who say the cost is well worth the convenience.

Jamie Brose of Sloan, a mother of five who dreads grocery shopping, thinks it’s “a great idea.” For her, a trip to the supermarket is not just a matter of gliding through the store selecting items – it involves wrangling the kids, turning down requests for treats and policing the cart to make sure extras don’t get thrown in.

“And with the weather we have had lately, it would be nice to just order what I need and have my husband pick it up on his way home,” Brose said.

There are other benefits, too. A California-based customer recently called the store for help getting groceries to his elderly mother who normally shops at Dash’s Clarence store. Dash’s let the customer use its online ordering system, and minutes later it had an $85 grocery order, which the store delivered.

“Convenience is part of what we do and this is an extension of it,” said Joe Dash, owner.

email:schristmann@buffnews.com