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Online Shopping Pulls into Giant Eagle Parking Lot

BOARDMAN, Ohio – It’s one of the first cold days in October and Paul Kinnick, a resident of Austintown, parks his car in the lot at Giant Eagle in Boardman on Doral Drive. Within minutes the trunk of his car is filled with a week’s worth of groceries from his shopping list and he never got out of his car.

Kinnick is one of many Giant Eagle customers using its Curbside Express program. “It’s convenient and you don’t have to go through the whole store,” he says. “I have limited mobility, and this way I can get on the computer, look up what I want, put it in my online shopping cart, and come over here and pick it up.”

Curbside was launched in the Pittsburgh market in April 2012. It made its way to the Doral Drive Giant Eagle this July, the first in the area.

“We’ve been in the online-ordering game for a few years now. So it’s given us time to figure out what’s working and what’s not,” says Jannah Jablonowski, spokeswoman for Giant Eagle. “We feel we’re at a really good place for this program. So that’s why you’re starting to see it roll out in markets across your footprint.”

A customer can begin shopping through Curbside Express by going online to CurbsideExpress.com and entering his Advantage Card number. This allows sales prices and other benefits, such as Giant Eagle Fuelperks to be applied at checkout. He can then shop all his items online and add them to his cart.

For same-day pickup, one must order at least four hours in advance. A cutoff time each day for same-day orders is 3:30 p.m., the last pick-up time 8 p.m.

Giant Eagle has designated parking spots for curbside customers for when it’s time to pick up their orders. Once parked, the customer calls the phone number on the sign in front of the parking spot. A Curbside Express employee brings the groceries out to the car, loads them, and accepts the customer’s payment through his car window.

The program follows national trends of e-commerce shopping, such as Amazon’s, with same-day delivery. Among the chains that have begun offering programs similar to Curbside Express are Walmart and CVS. “It’s our version of the online, same-day ordering. It is our response to that industry trend,” Jablonowski says.

According to PWC’s 2017 Total Retail Survey, 70% of shoppers in the world would rather buy their grocery purchases in-store, which is the highest of all product categories surveyed. That encompasses furniture, electronics, clothing, jewelry, books, toys, sports equipment, household appliances, do-it-yourself home improvement items and health and beauty products. Of those surveyed, 23% said they prefer buying groceries online and 33% said they have bought groceries online in the last 12 months.

“It’s all about giving our customers options,” Jablonowski says. “If you’re somebody who loves to come in and grocery shop, we would love to have you with us. In fact, the majority of our customers are still more comfortable with the bricks-and-mortar part of this, but there is that online trend and subset of customers who are all about saving time.”


Employees Amy Jordan and Leah Smith shop items for a curbside customer.

Online grocery shopping is very popular among young families, says the store manager, Andy Bell. “If parents don’t want to walk their kids around the whole store with them while they’re shopping, they don’t have to.”

Saturdays and Sundays are busier for curbside employees as more customers place orders for pick-up. “We see it follow a lot of in-store shopping trends in terms of foot-traffic,” Jablonowski says.

The first three orders made through curbside carry no service charge, after that a $4.95 service fee is charged per order.

Orders from each customer’s account are saved, making it easier for the next shopping trip because customers tend to buy the same items.

The program also gives the option of sharing shopping lists with other customers who share an Advantage Card. “If you have elderly family members that can’t get out and do their own shopping, they can still go online to craft their own shopping list, then share it with you,” Jablonowski says.

Other customers use the online grocery list for their own use in-store. “You can create your shopping list online and then use that as a tool to come in and shop for yourself,” she says.

The curbside employees have two to three weeks of training before starting in the position, Bell says. “We train our members to pick out the nicest produce, or leanest cut of meat, if that’s what you’re looking for. But if there is anything a customer is ever disappointed with, we absolutely will refund them.”

Other features are a section for customers to leave preference notes. “You can write if you like your bananas a little more green, or if you like your Golden Delicious apples more on the golden side. So they [employees] take all of that into consideration,” Jablonowski says.

The next step for the program is to offer same-day, home-delivery service where a third party helps Curbside Express employees deliver groceries to a customer’s home. The pilot store was launched in February with a few other test stores opening this month.

“While curbside is using technology and following all the trends, it’s not completely removing the human element of it,” Jablonowski says. “Someone is shopping the store for you. You have folks that are taking all of your preferences into mind in making those careful selections and they’re trained to do so.”

Pictured at top: Curbside Express employee Amy Jordan and store leader Andy Bell. 

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.