Marks and Spencer (M&S) is finally coming round to the idea of letting customers order food online for speedy home delivery. The upmarket retailer has confirmed it's taking some very tentative first steps with a home delivery service in the Camden area of London, and a collection option in Woodley, near Reading. This is only being offered to "selected Sparks members" for now, though, making it a particularly limited and exclusive trial.
Participants in Camden can order ready meals, pizzas and the like for home delivery within an hour (handled by courier service Gophr). Add some more general grocery items to your virtual basket and you're looking at waiting up to two hours for it to arrive, with the minimum order value set at £10. The situation is exactly the same in Woodley, though you have to pick your order up from the store yourself.
It would appear that M&S is toying with a few different ideas here. You could consider the one-hour option, specific to that night's meal, a counter to UberEats, Deliveroo and other takeaway services. Two-hour delivery of other foodie items, on the other hand, is more similar to the services Sainsbury's and Tesco have begun offering over the past year -- themselves an attempt to compete with Amazon's Prime Now one-hour deliveries.
M&S first said earlier this year it was going to launch a delivery trial right about now, admitting at the time that it hadn't made sense previously. M&S has sold party food and alcohol online for a while now, but CEO Steve Rowe said a broader grocery delivery option wasn't financially sound. Customers don't tend to spend that much on food at M&S at any one time -- not in the same way they might hit up Tesco for a substantial weekly shop, anyway.
That's why these trials are so limited. M&S is just testing the waters "as we explore what works for our customers." Angling one-hour deliveries as more of a takeaway food option is interesting, and where the retailer might find an untapped niche. Perhaps a hungry belly might want a nice ready meal from M&S instead of normal takeaway fare, especially when those seductive Christmas food adverts start making the rounds.