Online grocery operation partners with Sainsbury’s

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First Choice, which launched in Jersey last year, has partnered with Sainsbury’s to ‘deliver great quality and savings on people’s weekly shops’.

Jake Shaw, director of First Choice Groceries, said that the company was aiming to introduce the branded products early in March.

‘We are starting with 2,000 lines from their ranges of ambient and frozen foods and are aiming to add a further 1,000 to 2,000 products from their chilled range as we address some of the
logistical implications of transporting these items,’ he explained.

‘We started conversations with Sainsbury’s before launching First Choice last year as we felt it was a brand with an excellent reputation for quality and choice, while its product range also includes an extensive number of organic, plant-based and gluten-free lines. It is a supermarket chain which is popular in many of the home counties of the UK, areas with which Jersey shares many demographic features.’

It is also a range which, Mr Shaw said, would allow First Choice to maintain its keen focus on delivering competitive prices while complementing the 5,000 lines already available on the site.

‘As much as possible, we will model our prices on theirs. However, there are some complexities because we have to add GST to our items, while VAT doesn’t apply to food in the UK. They also have some investment lines which they sell almost at a loss. However, we are confident that our pricing is very keen and I would be shocked if our basket prices were not lower than those of our competitors.’

While many online grocery businesses have been set up in the Island recently, Mr Shaw said that the timing and planning behind First Choice made its offer stand out.

‘We did not launch the business opportunistically in response to Covid,’ he explained. ‘Before the pandemic hit, we had already identified a gap in the market. People have busy lives, juggling work and family commitments, so, even pre-lockdown, the demand for a more convenient way to undertake the food shop was there.’

Key to this convenience, he believes, is the breadth of products available and a tailored delivery service.

‘Firstly, we need to offer a full supermarket experience, otherwise it is no longer convenient to the customer. We have developed an extensive range, with an equivalent number of lines to that held in most large fixed stores and, as a Jersey business, we are pleased to stock a wide selection of local produce as well as the nationally renowned brands. We are also contacting more local producers – and would also invite them to get in touch with us – with a view to growing this offer further,’ he said.

‘Delivery is another core element of the service and we are building a fleet of purpose-built multi-zone vehicles to ensure that the goods are transported correctly. We also offer four delivery slots every day, enabling people to choose when they would like to receive their order.’

As demand for service has increased, the company has expanded, with its team now comprising 25 members, and Mr Shaw is confident of the potential for further growth.

‘In the UK, online accounts for about 20% of all grocery sales. While Jersey is nowhere near that level at the moment, I can definitely see the market share growing to between 10% and 20% as people choose to spend their leisure time with their loved ones, rather than running around the supermarket.

‘Given the company structure and skill set, it made sense for us to launch as an online retailer initially, and the immediate priority is to stabilise the range, gauge the demand and ensure that we are providing a high-quality service to our customers. Once we have done that, it will be a natural progression for us to look at complementing this service with a fixed store.’

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