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Online Grocery Services Struggle to Meet Spike in Demand

   Tuesday April 7, 2020 - 4:02 AM
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LONDON (AP) â?? A pandemic forcing everyone to stay home could be the perfect moment for online grocery services. In practice, they've been struggling to keep up with a surge in orders, highlighting their limited ability to respond to an unprecedented onslaught of demand.

After panic buying left store shelves stripped of staples like pasta, canned goods and toilet paper, many shoppers quickly found online grocery delivery slots almost impossible to come by, too.

â??It's kind of becoming more challenging to put a meal together,â?쳌 said Paul Smyth, a software engineer who lives near Manchester, England, where the online groceries industry is particularly advanced. He's a longtime customer of British online-only supermarket Ocado but hasn't been able to land a slot since he received his last delivery two weeks ago.

The problem for many delivery services is ramping up staff to pick goods in shops and deliver. But for Ocado, a cutting edge service that relies on warehouse robots, significantly increasing deliveries would mean a big investment in new machinery and warehouses too late to catch the spike in demand.

Smyth said he's starting to run low on meat and frozen goods, but wants to avoid going to a supermarket because he worries his asthma, diabetes and high blood pressure are risk factors if he catches the new coronavirus.

â??I won't be panicking for another week, but if I've got to wait another two weeks for a delivery slot it's going to be ...

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