Beep, beep: Rewe Group's new store drive-ins
If they only have to go a few yards to shop in overstored Germany, why must they wait around at home for a delivery? And, as they love their cars nearly as much as the Americans, why shouldn't they want a drive-in?
These or similar questions may have prompted Rewe Group to experiment with the store drive-in for online customers.
After testing a prototype in Cologne since November 2009, Germany's second-largest grocer has opened drive-ins at three outlets in the Rhine-Maine area last week.
The logo "Rewe Drive" now flies at two superstores in the Frankfurt suburbs of Sossenheim and Nieder-Erlenbach as well as in the Franconian town of Aschaffenburg.
All three outlets are conveniently accessible from the motorway or main roads.
Customers can order a full range of food and non-food, totalling more than 10,000 lines, online via Rewe Express Drive at normal supermarket prices.
Goods are available for collection three hours after the order has been placed online and in some cases until midnight. Sounds good, but will the idea catch on in one of the world's most price-conscious markets?
Orders are picked in-store by staff using Mobile Data Entry (MDE) devices and special trolleys. Online customers are duly debited a small service charge of €2 per order.
Each outlet has a small separate area for the storage of chilled and deep frozen goods. On collection, the orders are placed in red boxes which customers can take home with them on deposit.
All collection points have a separate till which accepts cash as well as debit and credit cards. The drive-in areas have their own entrance, but are not permanently manned so customers have to ring a bell to gain admittance.
Rewe intends to open further drive-ins "over the coming months" in the Cologne and Hamburg regions. The retailer co-operative-cum-multiple also plans to start a delivery service in the Frankfurt area. Rewe's move follows the opening of rival Metro Group's first German drive-in at a "real,-" hypermarket in Hanover.
The consumer time factor
Lionel Souque, who runs Rewe's larger stores, points out that the new concept meets the requirements of customers in major urban areas. "In today's society the time factor is becoming increasingly important."
Obviously, drive-ins also save retailers considerable delivery costs. Rewe, which is Germany's second-largest food retailer by revenues, also hopes that the new drive-ins will increase average customer spend.
Although, according to market researchers GfK, the Cologne-based company increased its average ticket by 3.3 per cent to over €14 last year, this still falls short of that of major competitors. The average spend at Rewe's test store in Cologne is €17.
An undeveloped art
The drive-in still remains somewhat of an underdeveloped art in German retailing, and certainly when compared with our French neighbours. This is somewhat surprising when one remembers what a car-oriented society Germany is. The country is not only home to many of the world's leading auto marques, but personal status also very much depends on the car one drives.
A visit to the new drive-in at a Rewe store in Nieder-Erlenbach found very few online customers using the new service. However, more cars could make the car park less safe for children and elderly customers as there are no protected walkways or zebra crossings.