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Countdown Launches Micro-fulfilment Tech To Make Online Shopping Five Times Faster

Countdown has unveiled the next generation of online shopping in New Zealand, with brand new technology that sorts and moves products directly to its team of 200 personal shoppers in Countdown’s Penrose eStore in Auckland.

Known as micro-fulfilment centres, the state-of-the-art automated storage units can hold up to 11,000 of the most in-demand grocery products, enabling Countdown’s personal shoppers to access these easily without having to walk up and down different aisles. Fresh food and perishables such as fruit, deli, bakery goods, vegetables and meat will continue to be hand-selected to order.

Countdown’s Acting Managing Director, Sally Copland, says the continued growth of online grocery shopping provides an opportunity to re-imagine what the future of good service looks like for customers.

“Our customers’ expectations continue to rise and we’re investing in new technology that is focused on providing an even more smooth and convenient online offer for Kiwis, and keeping pace with growth,” says Sally Copland.

“Micro-fulfilment technology will help us pull together packaged goods in minutes, saving our personal shoppers precious time to select quality fresh produce, meat and other perishable items. Our expert personal shoppers are trained to shop as carefully as they would when shopping for their own families, and now they’ll be able to serve twice as many customers with that same attention to detail.

“The technology is designed to help us deliver unparalleled speed and accuracy, and also keep us close to our customers for faster and more flexible home deliveries. This speed is key to increasing the availability of same-day deliveries that more and more of our customers want,” says Sally Copland.

The new technology marks the completion of New Zealand's first eStore, which rushed to open in April 2020 to help meet the unprecedented demand caused by the first Covid-19 lockdown.

The 8800sqm store in Auckland’s Penrose looks much like a regular supermarket, complete with a deli, bakery and fresh fruit and vegetables, but instead of customers, the aisles are filled with a team of personal shoppers, including 105 who were brand new hires to the company.

Operating 24 hours a day and seven days a week the store has been able to fulfil more than 7,500 orders each week since it opened thanks to a carefully designed layout based on sales data. The introduction of the new micro-fulfilment centre will increase that capacity to up to 15,000 orders each week.

The micro-fulfilment centre is provided by Boston-based Takeoff Technologies. The Penrose eStore is the first of two New Zealand sites to trial the automated capability with the Countdown Moorhouse in Christchurch also set to trial the technology when it opens in March this year.

“Plans for our eStore were in place well before last year’s lockdown, but when Covid-19 reached Aotearoa it became critical for us to speed up the timeline,” says Sally Copland.

“Now that our order numbers have stabilised we’re thrilled to deliver the micro-fulfilment element to increase efficiency, reduce pressure on our personal shopping team and get deliveries to our customers even faster.”

Countdown’s Penrose eStore services online delivery orders from the following Auckland supermarkets: Mt Wellington, St Johns, Three Kings, Mt Eden, Botany, Manukau City Mall, Meadowlands, Manurewa and Highland Park.

Online Pick Up orders in these areas are fulfilled and collected from local stores.

Countdown first launched online shopping in 1996 and has continued to innovate to serve the needs of its customers through the myCountdown app, from the Countdown website, in-store shopping at the checkout as well as a fully contactless Scan&Go service complete with AI technology that recognises fresh produce at the scales.

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