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New delivery business: 'In this day and age, we should have been at it long ago'

Business owners who have had to embrace e-commerce and online delivery predict Covid-19 will change consumer habits.

Image: Shutterstock/Denys Prykhodov

DOUG LEDDIN WAS supposed to be opening a new bar in Dublin’s Royal Hibernian Way this month.

His business plans, like so many others, evaporated six weeks ago when Taoiseach Leo Varadkar announced the imposition of business restrictions aimed at stopping the spread of the virus.

But Leddin is now busy with a new venture, StuffUNeed.ie, an online grocery delivery business he helped set up days after the announcement.

Like many business owners across the country, Leddin and his partners had to quickly adapt to new realities by embracing e-commerce and online delivery.

Now they are wondering if the current crisis will form consumer habits and increase the appetite for these kinds of services.

Investors certainly seem to think so.

Today, Irish start-up Buymie — a same-day grocery delivery service that has partnered with Lidl and Tesco — announced that it raised €2.2 million in its latest funding round, led by ACT Venture Capital.

Commenting on the news, ACT partner Debbie Rennick said, “There is increasing demand for convenience and faster delivery in the way people buy groceries online and we expect that trend to continue.”

Struggling with demand

Funding is an avenue that Leddin and his partners plan to explore in the future.

Set up just six weeks ago, StuffUNeed.ie delivers groceries, food and alcohol to customers in the capital, Bray and Greystones from its South Dublin warehouse.

Its founders are Leddin, co-owner of Ohanna Bar on Harcourt Street, along with Tim Cole and Sebastian Conway, owners of the Wing It chicken restaurants in Tallaght and Georges Street.

The trio came up with the idea for StuffUNeed.ie after realising that traditional supermarkets like Tesco and Supervalue were “going to struggle with the demand for online delivery” during the pandemic, Leddin said.
StuffUNeed.ie operates using Wing It’s Dun Laoghaire warehouse as a delivery hub, employs 15 staff and Leddin says to date, 3,000 deliveries have been completed.

He believes the demand or this sort of service will only increase in the wake of Covid-19 and because of that, he and his partners see opportunities on the horizon in the post-pandemic phase.

Ultimately, he says they hope to grow the business through “investment funding” when the time is right.

Leddin says, “We think people are going to continue (buying everyday goods online) because they’ve gotten used to the habit of picking their delivery time and zones. They’re going to get used to that continue to enjoy it.”

Click and collect

“In this day and age, we should have been at long ago,” says Matthew Richardson, managing director of Richardson’s Foods, a fresh fruit and veg supplier in Limerick City.

Almost overnight, the company saw its customer base — mainly businesses in the hospitality industry, schools and college campuses — dry up as a result of the restrictions.

“One of our own team here internally did some research (into setting up an ordering system on the website) and with two or three people, put the project together in about 36 hours,” he says.

For Richardson, however, the focus is less on delivery and more on the ‘click and collect’ model.

We’re not overly encouraging the delivery aspect of it because the feedback we’re getting is that people are quite happy to almost get a break from lockdown to get out to the shop. We’ve had numerous people say that, so we try to just interact at you know, safe distance… believe it or not, people seem to like that.

Like Leddin, he also thinks that the crisis will be “habit-forming and, “obviously, the longer it goes on, the more habit-forming it is.

“It’s critical now that we continue and enhance (the e-commerce element of the business) for the future and give people options.

“Even in the hospitality sector, I think we’ll be focusing on, creating a platform there because younger chef and customers people in that sector want to probably more use online more anyway.”

Takeaway beer

Back in Dublin, Dave Parle, co-owner of the Big Romance on Parnell Street, says the move online was a little more arduous but it was something the business had always been meaning to do.

“We built the site probably in about two weeks… our designer did a brilliant job of tailoring it to our needs and tweaking it but that bit was tough,” he says.

Once it was up and running, Parle and company started offering craft beer deliveries online, a move that he says has helped alleviate some financial stresses.

The pub delivers craft draft beers in containers called ‘growlers.’

Parle explains that despite the popularity of takeaway beer in major cities like London and Glasgow, the concept hasn’t taken off in Ireland. This, he believes, is because it’s mostly associated with craft beer and the Irish craft beer industry is still relatively small.

But he says the pub’s online delivery service is very popular and he’s encouraged by the uptake and thinks it could introduce new customers to the beers they stock.

“We’re getting a lot of return customers who are definitely really, really getting it and enjoying it.

We’re delivering all over to places like Donabate, Saggart, all over Dublin. So these are people who might not necessarily be able to come into us and might not have a lot of craft beer options in their area.

But does he see a future in online delivery beyond the shutdown?

“Everything is is on the table at the minute,” he says.

“Even a growler collection service where people order online, tell us what time they’re calling in and we can have it poured for them when they come into the bar and they take it out, bring it home and enjoy.

“Yeah, so I think that we will definitely be looking to continue it and see if there’s a market. But I’d be positive about that.”

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