A pair of ShopRite stores in Pennsylvania plan to test delivery robots from automated logistics specialist Tortoise for online grocery service.
ShopRite of Yardley (1603 Big Oak Rd.) and the ShopRite of Bethlehem (4701 Freemansburg Ave.) will be the first supermarkets in the Northeast to use Tortoise’s last-mile technology under a pilot program with Keasbey, N.J.-based retail cooperative Wakefern Food Corp. Plans call for Tortoise to first start providing contactless service at the Yardley store and then launch the delivery robots at the Bethlehem store later in October.
“We are excited to launch this revolutionary new technology. Demand for ever faster home delivery continues to increase, and we believe this provides another innovative way for ShopRite customers to receive their groceries quickly and efficiently,” Wakefern Chariman and CEO Joe Colalillo said in a statement. Colalillo also serves as president of ShopRite of Hunterdon County and operator of the Yardley and Bethlehem stores. “Tortoise’s battery-powered cart is a unique, environmentally-friendly and cost-effective delivery option for our customers who shop online.”
With an average speed of 3 miles per hour (7 mph maximum), Tortoise’s automated, zero-emissions delivery carts are tele-operated by trained drivers. Equipped with a camera and a speaker, the carts can hold up to 150 pounds in four lockable containers that support ambient, chilled and frozen groceries. ShopRite online grocery delivery customers receive a text message to come outside and pick up their groceries when the cart arrives at their home.
Delivery works as follows: The store loads the cart and texts the delivery address and cart number to Tortoise, which remotely controls the vehicle. Once under way, the cart travels on a sidewalk or the side of the road. Upon arrival at the customer’s address, the cart is unlocked by the remote operator, at which time Tortoise notifies the store that the delivery has been completed and sends the cart back for the next order. The cart can make deliveries within three miles of a store.
“Wakefern is our first customer on the East Coast to use this innovative delivery system, and we believe shoppers will love the convenience Tortoise offers,” commented Dmitry Shevelenko, co-founder of Mountain View, Calif.-based Tortoise. “Our electric cart allows ShopRite associates to focus less on the delivery of products and more on helping customers to improve the shopping experience.”
The two ShopRite stores are testing the second-generation Tortoise cart, which has a flat cargo bed. The cart and containers can bear the retailer’s brand. On its website, Tortoise said its cart can provide a 50% to 75% cost savings versus delivery by human drivers. That translates to a $6 to $11 savings per delivery, based on a two-mile or less cost per delivery of $4 for the Tortoise cart and $10 to $15 for a human driver.
Plano, Texas-based Delivery Solutions, which helps retailers maximize online delivery services and provide same-day delivery, worked with Wakefern and Tortoise to support the new delivery robots with real-time order tracking and scheduling.
“We are excited to deliver on our promise to futureproof fulfillment for ShopRite,” stated Delivery Solutions founder Manil Uppal. “Tortoise is the latest in a series of fulfillment options ShopRite will orchestrate against to provide superior customer experiences.”
The nation’s largest retailer-owned cooperative, Wakefern has a network of more than 360 supermarkets in New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island under the ShopRite, Price Rite Marketplace, The Fresh Grocer, Dearborn Market, Gourmet Garage and Fairway Market banners. ShopRite’s nearly 280 stores are located in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Delaware and Maryland.
Safeway, part of Albertsons Cos., became the first U.S. grocer on the West Coast to pilot the Tortoise delivery carts, offering the service earlier this year in selected Northern California neighborhoods.