Ocado could soon sell groceries outside of the UK for the first time in its history as the pandemic has left a number of markets “attractive for someone to enter aggressively”.
In an interview with the Financial Times, Ocado chief executive Tim Steiner said that the pandemic-driven shift towards ecommerce had left a number of markets ripe for a potential expansion by itself.
This marks a significant shift away from its established strategy of partnering with established retailers in overseas regions and providing them with its patented automated logistics solutions, as seen with its recent tie-up with US giant Kroger.
“The pandemic, we believe, has permanently accelerated the channel shift (to ecommerce) and some of those markets that were behind the UK are more attractive for somebody to enter aggressively now than they were before the pandemic,” Steiner told the Financial Times.
“If we haven’t got the right potential partner there, then they’re more attractive for us to think about ourselves.”
Steiner also brushed aside growing threats from the rapid grocery delivery sector, which has seen a flurry of startups like Weezy, Gorilla and Getir launch over the past year.
While Ocado has its own rapid delivery service Zoom, which offers grocery delivery in under an hour, these startups offer delivery in just 10 minutes using a network of ‘dark stores’.
However, Steiner questioned whether this rapid delivery would be as attractive to customers post-pandemic.
“Anything that’s come of age during the pandemic, I think you’ve got to take a very careful look at it to say, does it offer a proposition and a value that in a post-pandemic world is going to be attractive?” he said.
“We might be going at this more prudently than others, but we may well emerge — in the kind of ‘tortoise and hare’ style — as the winner in that (rapid grocery) space as well.
“It is very early to write us off in the immediacy space because we definitely know how to do this, and how to do it profitably as opposed to doing it crazily.”