Kroger is making progress on choosing a site for the first of at least 20 automated warehouses it plans to build through a partnership with Ocado, a UK-based online grocer, according to Reuters. The partnership was first announced in May with a plan to have three locations chosen by the end of 2018. The warehouses typically take two years to open after a site has been chosen.
“They’re making good progress identifying which particular sites and which particular cities,” said Duncan Tatton-Brown, CFO at Ocado in a meeting with reporters. “And we’re making good progress working on the details of the commercial relationship.”
Ocado uses purpose-built robots that are capable of picking a 50-item order in minutes to man its automated warehouses. The Kroger partnership is the e-Commerce retailer’s biggest yet, exceeding the centers it has built for Morrisons in the UK, Casino in France, Sobeys in Canada and ICA Group in Sweden.
The warehouses are part of the Restock Kroger initiative that is designed to help Kroger transform the shopper experience. The plan includes redesigning stores for self-checkout, including expansion of Kroger’s automated Scan, Bag, Go pilot to 400 stores in 2018.
Restock Kroger covers delivery as well, which Kroger is working to enhance with autonomous vehicles. The retailer has formed a partnership with Nuro, an unmanned road vehicle startup, with plans to launch a pilot program in Scottsdale, Ariz.
The retailer is bringing some delivery functions in-house through the launch of Kroger Ship, which rolled out in Louisville, Ky. and Nashville, Tenn. in August. The service offers shoppers a curated selection of 4,500 Our Brands private label items, as well as 50,000 center-aisle grocery and household products.
Kroger is further expanding its private label sales worldwide through a partnership with Alibaba. The Tmall platform will carry Simple Truth products in China, beginning with a small selection before additional products are added.
Not all of Kroger’s initiatives are grocery-related — the retailer has launched a private label clothing line called Dip at more than 300 Fred Meyer and Kroger Marketplace stores. Additionally, Kroger has entered the meal kit market and further enhanced its delivery options through the May 2018 acquisition of Home Chef.