The Boston Globe writes about Addie’s, a new independent pickup-only grocery store that has opened in Norwood, Massachusetts, about 20 miles south of Boston.
It is, the Globe writes, “the brainchild of Jim McQuade, an aerospace engineer by training, who says he became ‘obsessed’ with the online grocery concept more than a decade ago, after his wife asked him to pick up a few items for dinner: balsamic vinaigrette, feta cheese, and walnuts.
“‘I go into a supermarket, and of course it’s, ‘how do you find these three things?,’ he said. ‘Twenty-five minutes later, I finally find these three items…but when I get home, the kids are hungry, nobody’s happy’.”
The Globe writes that “McQuade, who was then working on an MBA at Harvard Business School, figured there was a better way for busy families to get their groceries. He came up with an idea for a drive-up store – customers would simply pull into a parking spot and receive their order in minutes … That was in 2013, and McQuade said the idea never took off. ‘It was too early,’ he said. ‘There was no curbside pickup from any grocery store’.”
Fast forward to 2020, when the pandemic meant that curbside pickup was what everybody wanted. “Addie’s raised $10 million in a deal led by the Disruptive Innovation Fund, the venture capital arm of Rose Park Advisors in Boston, which was cofounded by the late Clayton Christensen and his son, Matt Christensen.”
According to the Globe, “McQuade said Addie’s addresses several of the obstacles that come with existing pickup options. For example, some stores offer a limited number of pickup slots per hour, or they end up frequently making substitutes for out-of-stock products. He said Addie’s can serve hundreds of customers per hour, and its software ensures the products customers see online are actually in-stock.
“McQuade doesn’t sound fazed by the competition. He believes it will be more efficient to pack pickup orders in a grocery store that isn’t open to the public. Most stores’ inventories are designed keep customers shopping for a longer period of time, whereas Addie’s is arranged in a way that allows its employees to pick items the fastest.”
This sounds very interesting, and worth a drive up to Boston to see it one of these days.
There is one passage in the story, however, that gives me pause, in which it suggests that Addie’s goal is to open 2,000 stores in 10 years.
Yikes. I would suggest that McQuade check out a company called J. Bildner & Sons, a Boston-based retail chain that was way ahead of its time during the eighties when it came to fresh food marketing that catered to what then were called “yuppies.” It was a terrific format, and I really liked Jim Bildner … but they expanded beyond their ability to deliver on their value proposition, and the company eventually folded.
This Inc. piece by Bildner is a good one, if painful, to read.
I could be wrong about this, and maybe it is too early to make such a prediction, but I’d bet dollars to doughnuts that if the software is as good as McQuade says it is, he’ll either end up licensing it to other companies or will sell the concept to someone with deep pockets and a strategic mindset.
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