The Co-op has faced criticism as it begins selling groceries via Amazon and revs up 300 more delivery robots with the aim of almost tripling online sales to £200m.
The convenience store mutual said shoppers would be able to order from its full range of 3,000 grocery items via Amazon, if they are signed up to the US online specialist’s Prime subscription service.
The tie-up will initially launch in Glasgow and surrounding areas but there are plans to expand to other towns and cities later this year and eventually to go nationwide. Orders over £40 will be delivered free by Amazon’s Flex service, all of whose couriers are self-employed, and assembled at Co-op stores by the shop staff.
The Co-op now sells £70m a year of groceries online both directly, via food courier group Deliveroo and robot delivery specialist Starship Technologies.
About 200 of Starship’s autonomous robots, which resemble wheeled cool boxes and have been compared to squat versions of the Star Wars character R2D2, deliver Co-op groceries in Milton Keynes and Northampton. That will rise to 500 by the end of this year as the robots roll into five new towns and cities in areas including Cambridgeshire and the north of England. The robots will also begin delivering orders made directly from the Co-op as well as Starship’s app.
Steve Murrells, the group chief executive of Co-op, said: “The pandemic has accelerated changes in consumer shopping trends and we’re driving forward with exciting plans to provide rapid kerb to kitchen grocery delivery services.
“We are delighted to be working with Amazon. Its reach and leading technology and innovative approach means greater convenience for people in their communities. This, combined with our extended partnership with Starship Technologies, marks a significant milestone in our online strategy.”
The Co-op first teamed up with Amazon in 2012, providing collection lockers for the online specialist’s products in its stores.
The step up in the partnership by the Co-op, which prides itself on its ethical image, faced criticism from the GMB union, which is campaigning to improve workers’ rights at Amazon.
Andy Prendergast, national officer of the GMB, said: “It’s really disappointing to see a company with a proud ethical heritage like Co-op teaming up with Amazon: a tax evading multinational with a horrifying health and safety record.
“Amazon has made billions throughout the pandemic and pays virtually no tax. Bosses won’t even recognise a union to improve the health and safety of their beleaguered workforce.”
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A Co-op spokesperson said: “We aren’t compromising our ethics and principles and the extension of the partnership is about getting our ethically sourced products into the hands of more people.”
He said Co-op saw the partnership as a means to tackle issues including climate change and “youth skills and opportunities”.