Can remotely managed mobile-marts safely bring groceries to areas in need?
People have gotten more used to shopping online so that their groceries come to them due to the novel coronavirus pandemic. One Mobile, Alabama-based company wants to bring the whole grocery store closer to customers’ doors with a turnkey unmanned mobile mini-mart.
Startup Carts Blanche bills its VendaMarts as a way that grocers can safely deliver food to local neighborhoods, rural areas or housing and business complexes. Each unit is a 26-foot-long trailer capable of housing 10 automated machines, each servicing its own self-serve line. The unit can be customized with any combination of vending machines, microwaves, ATMs and digital signage while being managed remotely.
Carts Blanche founder and CEO Annette Nolan told RetailWire that the company is currently working in partnership with two entrepreneurs looking to develop mobile convenience stores. One of the companies plans to park the unit in neighborhoods and restock it there, while the other plans to move the unit on a rotating schedule while restocking from a central location. The company does not currently have relationships with full grocery stores, but intends to pursue such partnerships.
The refrigerated/frozen vending machines in each unit are capable of holding larger containers of fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, dairy, meats and non-perishables. Carts Blanche anticipates a single trailer, which can be moved by truck, being able to appear in up to 15 different locations per week.
Before the novel coronavirus pandemic, some of the biggest names in grocery had already begun experimenting with bringing mobile grocery stores to customers.
In the summer of 2019, Kroger launched its Zero Hunger Mobile Market, which it described as a “single-aisle grocery store on wheels.” The 50-foot unit, which first appeared in Louisville, KY, in conjunction with a local food bank, features nearly 200 products and began making stops in areas with limited access to grocery stores chosen by the charity. Low-income housing facilities, senior living facilities, schools and parks have been some of the facilities and areas serviced by the mobile market.
- VendaMarts Delivers Pre-Packaged Food Products into Neighborhoods Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic and Beyond – PR Newswire
- Kroger’s truck rolls into food deserts – RetailWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do unmanned, mobile markets pose advantages in meeting pandemic-era customer needs? Where might mobile grocery be most likely to catch on during and after the pandemic?