Chris Conway, Co-op Head of Food Digital

Chris Conway, the Co-op’s head of food digital

The Co-op is expanding a taxi home delivery service analysts have said could pave the way to selling online.

The trial, first revealed by The Grocer in July after launching in three stores, is to be rolled out to 12.

The Co-op offers home delivery of items purchased in store from 228 branches across the UK. The vast majority are despatched by Co-op vehicle fleets and drivers who are also store assistants.

Twelve of those will run the service by taxi instead in a trial that provides customers with a lift home with their shopping.

The supermarket said taxi companies were vetted to strict standards, with the customer agreeing a mutually convenient time for the shopping delivery and lift home.

The Co-op said the aim was to increase use of the home delivery service. When The Grocer first revealed the trial analysts noted that it could also point to e-commerce ambitions through a network of delivery partners.

Lisa Byfield-Green, senior analyst at LZ Retailytics, said at the time that with a “network of reliable logistics partners it could potentially also scale this initiative to include online ordering”.

Read more: The Co-op trials home deliveries using taxis

The move also followed a number of appointments of e-commerce professionals, including Chris Conway, previously Asda’s senior director of grocery e-commerce and Morrisons’ head of online, as the Co-op’s head of food digital.

Only nine of the 12 stores have been identified. They are Ashley Down in Bristol, Crouch End in London, Dolgellau in Gwynedd, Edinburgh’s Dairy Road, Pickering’s Market Place, Waterloo in Liverpool and Whittlesey in Peterborough, as well as the two revealed earlier by The Grocer as Lancing in West Sussex and Royton in Greater Manchester.

The Co-op’s home delivery service is free within a five-mile radius for customers spending over £25, or £3 if they spend less.

“Retailers need to be increasingly agile in their operations, and the Co-op is committed to exploring new ways to innovate which can create increased consumer choice, ease, speed and convenience,” said Conway.

“While it is still very early days, the response from customers and colleagues has been extremely enthusiastic, with many ‘hailing’ the new taxi scheme and added convenience a huge success, going so far as to describe it as a life-line which helps to overcome social isolation in our local communities.”