Sobeys begins testing at new automated ecommerce facility

Stewart Samuel
Program Director - Canada
@RetailAnalysis

Date : 28 April 2020

Following plans announced earlier this month to accelerate the launch of its Voilà service in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA), Sobeys has started to test orders at its new Customer Fulfillment Centre (CFC).

Partnership with Ocado

Sobeys has partnered with UK-based Ocado to build the CFC adjacent to its existing automated distribution centre in Vaughan, Ontario, optimising Ocado’s robotic-driven solution. Voilà’s phased rollout to customers across the GTA will begin when testing is successfully completed. Commenting on the launch, Luke Jensen, CEO of Ocado Solutions, said

“This is a milestone moment for Ocado Solutions. Within almost a month, we have brought two international CFCs live and on-time with partners in Canada and France. These are testament to the amazing working partnerships we have developed, particularly under recent challenging circumstances with COVID-19.”

Opportunity to tap into unprecedented demand

Although accelerating the launch of a major new initiative can be risky, the significant increase in demand for online shopping during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic represents an opportunity for the business. This month, Loblaw has started to test its automated micro-fulfillment centre (MFC) in the GTA, developed in partnership with Takeoff Technologies, while Metro has partnered with Cornershop to add new fulfillment options. Walmart Canada is expanding grocery pickup to additional stores and ramping up recruitment. 

Source: Sobeys

Aiming to win channel share through cost and service advantages

Voilà by Sobeys is a new brand for the retailer, which will also feature the “Your groceries delivered. Just like that.” tag line. Sobeys will offer around 39,000 products through the service, which is expected to include ranges from Farm Boy, the grocery business it acquired at the end of last 2018. It believes that the cost and service advantages of its model, along with Ocado’s software platform, will enable it to gain channel share, despite its later entry into the market.

Second automated fulfilment centre to be built in Montreal

This service will build on its established ecommerce business in Quebec. However, this will eventually transfer to the Ocado model in 2021. The retailer announced that it will develop a second customer fulfillment centre in Pointe-Claire, Montreal. Currently the retailer uses a store pick model from its IGA stores. This will remain operational until the new fulfillment centre comes on stream.

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