Business

Bellingham Fred Meyer stores to do grocery shopping for customers

Caroline Balzer of Bellingham unloads her grocery cart at the Fred Meyer grocery store on West Bakerview Road in Bellingham on Monday, March 21, 2016. Fred Meyer is introducing an online grocery pickup service for its Bellingham stores. “I think it’s a good idea,” Balzer said.
Caroline Balzer of Bellingham unloads her grocery cart at the Fred Meyer grocery store on West Bakerview Road in Bellingham on Monday, March 21, 2016. Fred Meyer is introducing an online grocery pickup service for its Bellingham stores. “I think it’s a good idea,” Balzer said. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

For those who don’t enjoy the weekly grocery shopping trip or simply want to save time, Fred Meyer is offering to streamline the task.

The company is planning to put its online shopping service, called ClickList, into its two Bellingham stores. It should be in place at the Bakerview store this spring, possibly by the end of May, while the Lakeway location should have it available by this summer, said spokeswoman Melinda Merrill.

Customers place their grocery order online and pick it up at the store during a one-hour slot they select for the next day. As the system settles into place, the stores hope to offer same-day pickup, Merrill said.

Customers tend to start off with a small order, just to test it out, but by the second order we see them placing a normal grocery order

Melinda Merrill, company spokeswoman

The company is spending about $230,000 to remodel the Bakerview store, creating a pickup location and hiring an extra 14 to 16 employees to handle it. Customers will drive up to the area, pay for their order and a worker will deliver the items to the car within minutes. The ClickList service is being offered only for grocery and food right now, with items like clothes and home decor coming later, Merrill said. Even with it being limited to grocery, shoppers will have more than 40,000 items to choose from.

The company has tried this out at five Oregon stores and the feedback has been terrific, Merrill said.

“Customers tend to start off with a small order, just to test it out, but by the second order we see them placing a normal grocery order,” Merrill said.

Online grocery shopping has been tried several times in Whatcom County. During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, companies like NorthwestGrocer.com offered delivery service in Western Washington, while grocers like Haggen and Brown & Cole dabbled with the idea during that time. None of them were successful enough to stay around.

$4.95 The fee for the ClickList online shopping service, which will be waived on a customer’s first three orders.

Today, online ordering can be done on some items that are delivered, as at Amazon.com, or for in-store pickup on catering orders. But Merrill said she hasn’t seen any company in this region that lets customers do their complete grocery list online and simply pick up at the store.

The online shopping fee will be $4.95 per order, with the fee waived on the first three orders.

Customers can browse a “favorites” section, which lists items that shoppers buy on a regular basis. They can also put in specific requests for items like fruits or vegetables, for example specifying how ripe they want their bananas. Employees handling the deliveries also will be trained on selecting produce that’s just right, Merrill said.

Products like ice cream will remain in a freezer until the customer arrives to pick up an order.

There are a limited number of reservations for each time period, which will be between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. seven days a week. When a customer places an order, the website will tell the customer which time slots are available. On busy days, like the day before Thanksgiving, Fred Meyer will provide extra staff for that department, just like it would add cashiers and workers in other parts of the store. Customers also can reserve their slot early and still add to the order the closer they get to the pickup date, Merrill said.

Customers will get a reminder email to pick up their order. Merrill said she has not heard of any issues of customers forgetting to pick up groceries.

For details on how Fred Meyer’s online ordering system works, visit fredmeyer.com/onlineshopping.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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