8Dol rider

Source: 8Dol

The app-based grocer is establishing premises close to or within residential student areas

Resistance from police, local authorities and residents is frustrating the ambitious expansion plans of app-based grocer 8Dol, its UK head of operations Craig Moore has said.

The company - which was founded in China in 2013 and launched in the UK in 2018 - plans to open 25 delivery hubs by the end of next year, but objections to licensing applications are “slowing us down” Moore said.

Aimed at students, 8Dol stocks about 500 items that it claims it can deliver, on average, within 28 minutes. To do so it is establishing premises close to or within residential student areas.

In several towns, there have been fears 8Dol’s arrival will lead to spikes in underage drinking, ‘car surfing’, vomit on pavements, broken bottles, parking problems and illegal drug use.

Moore said the company was often “mistaken for an off-licence” which made the process of obtaining a licence more costly and was “slowing us down”.

“People can think it will have an impact on their road, with on-street drinking - it’s a miscommunication thing. We deliver out to students’ homes.”

Through legal representatives John Gaunt & Partners, 8Dol has been able to get police and council objections withdrawn in several locations. However, resident resistance in Oxford and Bristol resulted in contested hearings before licensing committees.

8Dol’s licensing lawyer Jon Wallsgrove said the app’s novelty “has contributed to some of the opposition to it”.

Groceries, including beer, spirits and tobacco products, are sourced from wholesalers and picked and delivered by 8Dol employees by bike within a three-mile radius. There is a delivery charge of £1 and the minimum basket value is £5.

As the riders are employees, Moore said the company could ensure ID checks on alcohol sales were made.

Moore said the licensing challenges get “easier each time”.

“These successes mean that we’re able to use them as evidence when applying for licences at new sites, which we hope will see them granted more quickly,” he said.

Despite the company’s stated aim of opening in 25 new locations by 2021 - expected to include Islington, Portsmouth, Exeter and Canterbury - Moore said 15 would be a “mark of success”.

The so-called ‘Student Cloud Supermarket’ claims to have three million weekly users.