Grocery shoppers in Janesville and nearby ZIP codes to the north soon can get their groceries delivered straight to their doors through a digital shopping service that’s expanding into Rock County.
San Francisco-based Instacart, a digital, app-driven grocery shopping service, announced this week that it plans to roll out its services in Janesville and some areas in northern Rock County and far southern Dane County on Wednesday.
Instacart plans to partner with Janesville retailers Schnucks, CVS pharmacies and Petco pet supply store to provide home delivery of groceries and other items.
Scott Holloway, Midwest region operations manager for Instacart, said his company has hired 100 part-time shoppers who will hand pick groceries and other items customers order on their smartphones using Instacart’s shopping app.
Instacart allows people to subscribe to the service for $35 a month or $149 annually, or pay a $5.99 surcharge for each delivery.
Locally, it’s a service similar to Woodman’s “Shop Woodman’s” app that allows customers to order groceries electronically then pick up their bagged items at a drive-up at the Lexington Drive store in Janesville—an electronic shopping method also called “click and collect.”
Instacart takes that type of service a step further by having its own workers, “personal shoppers,” shop for customers at Schnucks, CVS and Petco and deliver to customers’ homes in a time frame that works for the customer. It might be as quickly as an hour, Holloway said.
Holloway said Instacart already is available in the Madison area and in Illinois in the Chicagoland and Rockford areas. He said the company, which was founded in 2012, is expanding farther into “suburban and rural” areas.
He said the company decided to expand to Janesville because it got a “high volume” of requests for the company’s services from local ZIP codes.
In its new market, Instacart will serve people in all ZIP codes in Janesville, including the far south side, where Pick ‘n Save closed in November.
Delivery also will be available in northern Rock County and far southern Dane County, including Edgerton, Milton, Newville, Albion and the Lake Koshkonong area. That service area encompasses 38,000 households, Holloway said.
Instacart’s services in the Midwest are used by a broad spectrum of demographic groups, including millennials, baby boomers who shop for aging parents and companies that stock their own corporate kitchens and snack rooms, and people who don’t drive or own vehicles, Holloway said.
“Overall, in this day and age, people of all kinds are dealing with the same thing: They’re crushed more and more for time,” he said.
Holloway said Instacart’s shoppers can communicate directly with customers using smartphone messages if an item a customer has ordered is out of stock, allowing customers to instantly substitute a different or similar item.
Schnucks next week will make available to Janesville shoppers its own website portal to Instacart’s service, Schnucksdelivers.com, said Schnucks spokesman Paul Simon.
Simon said Schnucks has been partnering with Instacart since last year and in recent months began rolling out the partnership at stores in the Rockford, Illinois, area.
The move comes as e-commerce giant Amazon makes inroads into online grocery-selling via its buyout of high-end grocery chain Whole Foods last year.
“It’s technology,” Simon said. “We are keeping up with technology for the times, and it’s along with what our customers expect from us.”
Simon said Schnucks’ partnership with Instacart has been “very successful,” and he said it hasn’t necessarily affected the number of customers who visit the stores. He said it’s actually grown the chain’s overall customer base.
Simon called Instacart’s shoppers “proxy shoppers.” He said it’s hard to distinguish them from other supermarket customers except by their identification lanyards and their use of electronic devices to crosscheck orders.
He said Instacart shoppers check out purchases just like regular customers, and their presence doesn’t affect employment or staffing at the Schnucks stores where they shop. He said Instacart’s app and Schnucksdelivers.com offer some of the same sale prices in-store customers would get.
On Janesville’s south side, residents are still adjusting to the lack of a nearby neighborhood supermarket in the wake of the Center Avenue Pick ‘n Save’s closure late in 2017. A broker who is selling the former Pick ‘n Save has indicated it’s more likely the 130,000-square-foot space will be redeveloped for light industrial use rather than as another supermarket.
Gale Price, city economic development director, said Friday he was excited to hear about Instacart’s expansion into the Janesville market, particularly because the south side has had a “food desert” develop in the wake of Pick ‘n Save’s closure.
“It would be an option, certainly, when you think about what it costs if you don’t have a car. Six dollars seems like a small extra price to pay for getting groceries delivered,” he said.