Amazon has ramped up its push into the UK grocery market with the launch of a next-day delivery service which charges by the box. The American online retailer is launching its Amazon Pantry service, which is already available in the US, Japan, Germany and Austria, to members of its subscription-based Prime scheme, which launched in the UK in 2007.
Prime members will be able to fill a Pantry box with up to 20kg of groceries from a list of 4,000 items including food and drink, household supplies, pet care and health and beauty products. Delivery of a first box costs £2.99 with further boxes charged at 99p.
The latest move comes after Amazon began testing demand for a full grocery delivery service in September by adding a range of about 60 chilled and frozen food items to its Prime Now one-hour delivery service, which operates in London and Birmingham. It is expected to move into other cities in coming months.
“Amazon Pantry has been designed to take the heavy lifting out of replenishing the often bulky basics and store cupboard essentials that people need every day,” said Helene Parthenay, Amazon Pantry manager at Amazon.co.uk. The company is expected to launch its full grocery service, AmazonFresh, in the UK in the near future. That service, which offers fresh fruit and vegetables, dairy products and meat with free same-day delivery for orders of more than $35, is currently only available in Seattle, California and New York.
Amazon has been selling groceries in the UK for some time. It launched the Grocery Store section of its main website in 2010 which sells about 200,000 household essentials, from air freshener to coffee and biscuits, through its usual website in the UK. But the latest drive into groceries provides another challenge to British supermarkets, which are struggling to cope with rising competition from the discounters Aldi and Lidl and the rise of online shopping. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Asda, Morrisons and Waitrose have online grocery services – giving Amazon more competition than it might have in its home market – but the traditional supermarkets have struggled to make a profit from home deliveries. Online sales still make up quite a small part of the market.
Even in the US, Amazon has not been able to take a major share of the grocery market. In its home town of Seattle, where the retailer controls 40% of online groceries, its total share of grocery sales is just 1.2% according to analysts. Amazon’s growing array of grocery services could be confusing for shoppers while the supermarkets offered something more “streamlined and logical” online. British shoppers – and Irish shoppers too – are also used to being able to choose a timed delivery slot, whereas the Amazon Pantry service only promises “next day”.
While this is a long way from reality in Ireland, it is still a distinct possibility.