Where the Shoppers Are
These days you can get your shoes repaired, mail packages, and do your banking in a single trip to the supermarket. Supermarkets, in their battle with the superstores, are driving the trend of stores within a store. And a number of small companies -- forsaking retailing as usual -- are profiting.
Express Shipping Centers, a network of United Parcel Service depots, has, in five years, established 4,000 locations, almost all within supermarkets. The $11-million company in Fairfield, Iowa, has no storefronts of its own.
"Our whole business is making UPS convenient for consumers, and supermarkets are the best place to do that," explains Ken Ross, CEO of Express. Ross has struck revenue-sharing deals with numerous food chains and superstores. "We're piggybacking on the customer-service department of the supermarket."
Express Shipping trains the clerks, but the grocers pay their wages. All the same, Ross assumes the up-front risk. He has invested heavily in customer-service technology to develop a tracking system. Last year 80,000 consumers called Express's 24-hour 800 number. Advertising is another cost. "Our major challenge is letting people know we're here," says Ross.