Worth it? Grocery shopping online vs. in-store

KGW compared online and in-store shopping prices at three major grocery chains to find out whether the time savings is worth the extra cost. 

Grocery Options: How do prices compare? None

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You’ve probably seen the advertisements, or maybe you received a flier in the mail. Grocery stores are promoting new options like online shopping, curbside pick-up and home delivery. So how do the prices compare?

To find out, KGW went shopping. We compiled a list of 20 common products and then compared prices between the new options and traditional in-store shopping.

We found slight variations between online and in-store prices for certain products but the biggest difference came from delivery fees, which ranged from $4.95 to $12.95. In short, customers will have to pay for the convenience of home delivery or curbside pick-up.

“I’m willing to pay a little bit more. What that number is? I’m not sure. Maybe a couple bucks,” said Peter Vidito of Portland, who has tried online grocery shopping a few times. 

Fred Meyer Curbside Pick-Up

Curbside pick-up is available at many Fred Meyer stores throughout Oregon and Washington for a fee of $4.95. The service is called ClickList. Shoppers go online, select items from the website and then choose a one-hour pick-up window. When your order is ready, employees cart the groceries to a specially designated area in the store parking lot for pick-up.

Fred Meyer Curbside Pick-up: $87.33

Fred Meyer In-store Shopping: $80.73

We found the in-store prices at Fred Meyer to be nearly identical to online shopping. The only price variation in the 20 items we compared was sockeye salmon and organic chicken breast. In both cases, it was slightly cheaper in the store. The biggest difference came from the $4.95 curbside delivery fee.

Instacart (Home Delivery) from Whole Foods

Instacart claims to be the nation’s largest on-demand grocery delivery service. Customers simply log onto the website and choose which groceries they need. Instacart then deploys personal shoppers to buy and deliver groceries, typically within hours. There is a $5.99 delivery fee added to every order.

Instacart is available through stores including Costco, Natural Grocers, Petco, Fred Meyer and Whole Foods. KGW compared Whole Foods prices on Instacart and in-store.

Whole Foods- Instacart Home Delivery: $105.72

Whole Foods In-Store Shopping: $93.59

We discovered slight price variations between Instacart and in-store shopping at Whole Foods. For example, a 12-ounce box of Cheerios was $3.99 on Instacart, while that same box of cereal was $2.99 on the store shelf at Whole Foods in Portland’s Laurelhurst neighborhood. In contrast, a gallon of two-percent milk was more expensive in the store ($4.19) compared to the Instacart website ($3.79). The biggest difference between Instacart and the in-store price was for salmon. In the app, sockeye salmon was priced at $16.49/pound, but in-store that same salmon was on sale for $11.99/pound. The app didn’t appear to reflect the sale price displayed in the store.

When you tack on the delivery fee of $5.99, Instacart became about $12 more expensive.

Safeway Home Delivery

Safeway has provided home delivery for several years, although it is not available at all locations. Shoppers must create an account, then select the items they wish to purchase. Customers can choose between a one and four-hour window for groceries to be delivered. Safeway charges a fee of $12.95 for home delivery on purchases under $150 and $9.95 on purchases of $150 or more. 

Safeway Home Delivery: $103.50

Safeway In-store Shopping: $86.04

We found considerable savings by shopping in the Safeway store. Many products were cheaper. For example, Dave’s Good Seed sliced bread was $5.49 on the shelf at Safeway on Southeast Powell Boulevard in Portland. Online, the same loaf of bread cost $6.29. We also found better prices in the store on mustard, milk, cheddar cheese, ice cream, baby carrots, orange juice, coffee and potato chips. 


The Future?

Online grocery shopping is the fastest-growing sector in U.S. retail, economists say. Twenty-three percent of shoppers bought groceries online in the last three months, according to a survey in April 2017 from the market research firm TrendSource. 

“I don’t spend any time worrying about the potential death of brick-and-mortar retail. That’s just not going to happen,” said retail expert Herb Sorensen, author of “Inside the Mind of The Shopper.”

Sorensen said there are two things favoring traditional grocery stores: experience and immediacy. Customers like the experience of smelling the freshly baked bread in the bakery and touching the fresh fruits and vegetables in the produce section. Also, shoppers don’t want to wait for certain items.

“If you need something and you live in this neighborhood, you can come here and five minutes later have it. We’re not talking about later today. We’re not talking tonight. We’re talking about now,” said Sorenseon.

The retail expert predicts the grocery stores we shop in may look a little different in the future to accommodate new technology and buying habits, but they won’t be replaced by online shopping. 

Click to view price breakdowns

 

Published Nov. 6, 2017

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