Woodman's launches online shopping in Janesville

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Neil Johnson
Thursday, July 27, 2017

JANESVILLEMelissa Shober rolled four plastic totes full of groceries out an east door at Woodman's Market in Janesville.

Outside, she met a Chevy pickup truck waiting by the door.

A man in the pickup rolled down the window and told Shober he'd been sent to Woodman's by his wife to get the groceries. Shober handed the man his bag of eggs, yogurt, frozen pizzas and other household essentials.

“I had to try this once,” the man said before rolling up his window and driving away.

For him, shopping for a week's worth of groceries got rolled into a 20-second transaction, and he never set foot inside Woodman's.

The Woodman's on Lexington Drive is the first grocer in Janesville to offer online grocery shopping with at-store pickup. The Janesville-based grocery chain unveiled the service Wednesday through its electronic app, Shop Woodman's, amid a flurry of interest by local shoppers.

In the last few days, thousands of people have shared Woodman's Facebook posting that announced online shopping in Janesville, the company said.

Woodman's has offered online grocery ordering in Madison and Milwaukee markets for about two years, as have a few other grocery chains. This year, it began expanding the service to stores throughout Wisconsin, most recently in Kenosha.

Customers can access an app on Woodman's website and download it to their phones or computers. The app allows them to make lists, search for items on sale, and order and pay for their groceries from home with a credit or debit card.

They then schedule a pickup at the Janesville Woodman's during four time slots available daily.

Pickers and packers, whose jobs at Woodman's are similar to warehouse work, handle the in-store grocery shopping. The workers then hand-deliver the grocery orders to the customers at their cars, similar to a parcel pickup service.

Woodman's Market President Clint Woodman said the service is viewed as a competitive advantage for the company locally. He said it's targeted at time-starved people or those who seek a more convenient way of shopping than walking around a grocery store.

Three employees including Shober work through Grocerkey, a company that runs the Shop Woodman's app through a partnership with Woodman's.

The employees work out of a staging room equipped with coolers, freezers and a computer system to process orders, ready them for pickup and keep perishable items cold.

They spend part of their work shift wandering the grocery aisles with smartphone-like devices that help them fill customers' orders.

On Wednesday, the first day of the service in Janesville, about 20 people ordered groceries online for pickup, and the Shop Woodman's workers were already readying their online orders for the next day, said Dan Hess, a consultant for Grocerkey and Woodman's.

Online grocery ordering and pickup come to Woodman's at a time when grocers are girding for battle against online retail giants such as Amazon, which has recently made forays into the grocery market.

Woodman said his grocery chain has been working to expand its online grocery service beyond Madison and Milwaukee for months. He said the move was not tied to Amazon's recent dive into the retail grocery market.

“It's really a coincidence that it's happening in Janesville at the same time the Amazon thing happened,” Woodman said.

“This is just a matter of Woodman's being innovative and trying to stay ahead of the competition. It's us taking advantage of the technology that allows somebody to pick a person's order with a device, instead of walking around picking everything out with a pen and paper.”

At some of its Madison stores, Woodman's also offers home delivery. That service is not yet available in Janesville, but Woodman and Hess said Woodman's plans to roll out online orders for pickup at all 13 of its Wisconsin stores by the end of the year.

The same service will come to the company's Illinois location in 2018.

Woodman said possible expansion of delivery service would be a consideration later on. For now, he said, Woodman's is the only grocery store he's aware of in Janesville to offer online ordering and pickup.

The Shop Woodman's app allows people to build grocery lists they can save within the app, which Woodman calls "highly intuitive." The app also tracks each customer's past orders and lets them scan for items on sale and use electronic coupons.

According to a "frequently asked questions" section on the app, orders must be at least $50. Customers with orders of $50 to $100 are charged $4.95 per order. Orders costing more than $100 have no surcharge.

Customers can use debit or credit cards for their orders, but Hess said government subsidized EBT cards, commonly known as food stamp cards, are not accepted.

Customers can order most grocery store items online with the exception of alcohol and tobacco products, which are regulated by federal authorities.

The picker-packers who fill the online orders said Wednesday they were still troubleshooting the location of some items, but the rollout went smoothly overall.

The major glitch Wednesday, if it could be called that, is that one online customer couldn't get parsnips. Turns out they're not in season.

Meanwhile, Woodman confirmed this week that the chain has sealed a land deal to build a 240,000-square-foot store in the western Chicago suburb of Buffalo Grove. It will be the first new Woodman's in Illinois since 2006, Woodman said.

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