Tesco reveals plan to launch trials of drone deliveries

bladeTesco is moving into Blade Runner territory by trialing grocery home deliveries with drones from next month, with products being dispatched within 30 minutes of being processed.

Tesco’s chief executive Dave Lewis – who is due to the leave the business within weeks – said the business was considering new ways to reach customers, and that it will launch the trial in Ireland, where partner Manna already has a licence to operate.

“They (Manna) have already proven the capability, the question is how do we take that capability and apply it to Tesco and that’s the detail that’s been worked on now before we get to the trial,” Lewis said during a webcast Tesco hosted, Reuters reports.

Lewis said Tesco has four innovation priority areas: data; food and drink products and technology; robotics and automation; and packaging.

But with the so-called “small basket” market forecast to exceed £10bn in the UK in the coming years, Tesco group innovation director Claire Lorains said the trial would initially focus on the delivery of just a few grocery items, such as forgotten recipe items.

She added: “We’re really interested to see how drones could be part of the solution to deliver to our customers on-demand small baskets. If our trial is successful, we think there is an opportunity to reach many customers through our stores extending with a drones service.”

According to data from Nielsen, online grocery sales rose by 117% in the four weeks to August 8, achieving a record market share of 14%. UK shoppers spent £678m more on FMCG products during the month, with online sales accounting for 97% of this growth, equating to £658m.

In response to Amazon’s planned expansion of the Amazon Fresh service, Tesco is to add free delivery for online orders for members of its Clubcard Plus premium loyalty scheme, which was launched last November.

However, Tesco has the unusual honour of being both praised and flayed for its performance during the Covid-19 pandemic, with a poll by shopper agency SMP placing the supermarket third on the naughty step behind Sports Direct, and Wetherspoon top of the gold star table, followed by Asda and Amazon.

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