By Patrick Yeagle

Delivery of groceries and other retail products is growing in Springfield, with San Francisco company Instacart the latest to launch delivery service here.

Geared toward convenience, the nationwide trend is attracting both retailers and consumers.

David Osborne, general manager of Instacart in Springfield, says the company started about five years ago when the company’s founder, a software engineer in San Francisco, found himself too busy to shop. Osborne says Instacart originally rolled out to large metropolitan areas like New York and Los Angeles, before moving into smaller markets like Dayton, Ohio.

The company launches in Springfield and the surrounding area on July 13, and Osborne says Instacart will work with 200 independent contractors here to fill orders from retailers like Schnucks, Shop ‘N Save, CVS and Petco.

Delivery of retail products is a growing industry, with some retailers developing their own delivery programs and others partnering with delivery services. Online megaretailer Amazon now sells its own line of Prime-branded groceries, taking advantage of its existing delivery infrastructure to edge into the grocery industry, which has traditionally been dominated by brick-and-mortar establishments. The trend even extends beyond groceries, including ready-to-eat food; earlier this year, Springfield-based restaurant delivery service Abe’s Takeout became part of Mr. Delivery, a delivery service serving several states.

Hy-Vee in Springfield has offered grocery delivery for about two years, says Rochelle Slater, manager of the Springfield Hy-Vee’s online shopping department. Demand has been growing quickly, Slater says, primarily through word of mouth. Although online shopping is its own department at Hy-Vee, Slater says she often has to draft employees from other departments to help fill orders. She says many of the store’s delivery customers are senior citizens, for whom delivery offers added independence.

Osborne at Instacart adds that delivery appeals to busy parents and career-minded people for whom grocery shopping is a distraction. He adds that he has three children of his own, and finding time to shop is difficult with kids in tow.

“Time is one thing you can’t really buy,” he said. “We really look at giving customers time back in their day.”

He says while grocery delivery is a simple concept, advancements in technology – especially the pervasive use of smart phones – have made it far more accessible to customers and efficient for providers. For example, Osborne points to the ability to quickly pull up directions to a customer’s home or the ability for customers to specify how ripe they want their produce.

Meanwhile, offering delivery service allows retailers to earn sales which might have gone elsewhere, Osborne says. As more retail moves online, offering delivery helps brick-and-mortar retailers keep customers.

Slater says it was important for Hy-Vee to get an early start on the delivery trend. She says Hy-Vee even has a “dark store” in Iowa which only exists to fill orders for delivery.

“A lot of stores waited too long, but now this is huge,” she said. “You have to get your feet wet so that if it takes off, you can take off with it.”

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