Tesco launches 'virtual' airport store

Virtual storeTesco

Tesco has launched a 'virtual supermarket' at Gatwick Airport, which will be open for the next fortnight. The 'store' is made up of a number of giant billboards featuring moving screens. Travellers can scroll through them, scanning the barcode of all their every-day essentials with their phones, and book a food delivery ready for their return home.

So is this a breakthrough in convenience, or an expensive gimmick?

The launch

Tesco is billing it as a brilliant solution to the misery of coming back to an empty fridge, and having to face an epic supermarket shop before they can have so much as a cup of tea to soothe the pain of returning home.

The store will offer 80 products, and delivery slots can be booked up to three weeks in advance. There will also be Tesco staff manning the boards for customers who are overwhelmed by the process.

Tesco win

It's clearly going to work for Tesco. It knows the stores are effective, as it launched virtual stores in South Korea last year, allowing commuters to shop in subways and at bus stops.

And with around 30,000 people departing from Gatwick's North Terminal each day - with an average of 70 minutes of downtime while waiting for flights - there's a captive audience to exploit. If this store is a success, they say they will roll it out to busy computer spots too.

What about shoppers?

On the one hand, it could be very convenient. It could also mean saving a small fortune on sunglasses and perfume you don't really need. As we reported, the duty free shops may end up being less of a bargain than you might think, so this store may actually be a more fruitful way to shop in the airport.

Senior Marketing Manager for Tesco.com, Mandy Minichiello, said: "As a busy working mum of two, I know that planning holidays can be stressful. The last thing you want is an empty fridge when you get back. When we came up with the idea for the virtual store at Gatwick, we really wanted to provide a helpful service for busy families."

However, it doesn't come without a cost. You'll need to download the app, and then you'll need to pay for delivery -which costs up to £7 in busy times.

And you have to consider the convenience. Is it really more convenient to book a two hour slot a few hours after you come home than to pop in at the corner shop on the way home? You will still come home to an empty fridge, and you still won't be able to have a cup of tea for hours after your return.

Plus, when you finally get to the airport and through all the hassle of preparing for your trip, are you really going to be in the right frame of mind for a sensible and well-thought-out shop?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

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