Fancy a ready-to-eat banana and have it delivered to your door before you can blink – that’s what flash delivery companies like Gorillas promise. And there appears to be a lot of demand for this. ‘People buy time from us in addition to groceries.’
‘Suckers’, a pizza delivery boy shouts from his bicycle. He drives past the building of flash delivery boy Gorillas in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. A group of bicycle couriers standing outside are smiling at each other. Jealousy? Unmoved, the boys go on with what they were doing: wait to race through town with a full shopping bag on their backs.
The boys are standing in front of the warehouse annex ‘club house’ of Gorillas. Whoever walks in is welcomed by loud music and even more boys and girls dressed in black. They drink a cup of coffee or kick a ball back and forth. Until a bell rings, which barely drowns out all the noise in the building.
Crisps, soft drinks, frozen meals, fresh vegetables, wine. Warehouse workers pick up the groceries from numbered racks. The bags are filled very quickly. Barely ten minutes later, one of the bicycle couriers will be at the customer’s doorstep with a bag full of cold beer or a pack of diapers.
Flash delivery it is called. The latest on-demand trend, delivering groceries within ten minutes. Gorillas is the first to keep the promise, for the most part, in the Netherlands. Deliver from warehouses in the city called hubs riders more than two thousand products on electric bicycles with striking green rims. Need-order-get is the philosophy written in large letters on the building. Need, order, receive. To make that happen, only people who live within ten minutes cycling distance of a warehouse can order via the Gorillas app.
Racing against the clock
“Racing against the clock is not stressful,” says Jopie Diets, who points to himself as one of Gorillas’ fastest couriers. ‘When things get too chaotic in the clubhouse, I like to jump on my bike to clear my mind.’ The work is satisfying, he thinks. “We even get thank-you notes from young families who don’t have time for groceries.”
Anyone who thinks Gorillas is a small supermarket start-up is wrong. After the latest round of investment, which raised $ 240 million, nine-month-old Gorillas is worth more than $ 1 billion. This makes the German flash delivery company the fastest growing start-up in Europe.
At the end of December, Gorillas opened its first Dutch warehouse in the Amsterdam Pijp. There are now eleven dark stores – warehouses from which customers are served– in six different places, including the student cities of Groningen, Utrecht and Leiden.
Thank you notes
Not surprising, because the fast groceries from Gorillas are especially popular with starters, young families and students. ‘People buy time from us in addition to groceries,’ says Luc van Emmerik, responsible for Gorillas’ international growth. And young urbanites are more than happy to have extra time, according to Van Emmerik. The speed gives the company a wow factor, he thinks. ‘People are amazed that we really can be there within ten minutes and tell their friends that.’
Despite the word of mouth, Gorillas is not yet profitable. With supermarket prices, a delivery rate of 1.80 euros and buildings in expensive cities such as Amsterdam, Gorillas’ plans are ambitious. The riders and warehouse employees receive a permanent contract of at least 20 hours, unlike couriers from many other delivery services.
Nevertheless, Van Emmerik believes in the earnings model. “The confidence of the investors says enough.” The company wants to reduce costs by expanding rapidly. ‘Thanks to the data we collect, we can also purchase more efficiently.’ The company maintains relatively small stocks in the warehouses, which are replenished once or twice a day. ‘As a result, we can also guarantee that customers always receive ready-to-eat bananas.’
Right to exist
The rise of flash delivery fits well in the current market, according to Martijn Arets, who works as a researcher and publicist on the platform economy. ‘People are becoming increasingly impatient. Nowadays almost everything can be ordered on demand. ‘ The flash delivery people fill a gap in the existing market with the quick groceries. ‘At Albert Heijn or Picnic you often have to wait about three days.’
Other companies are also filling that gap. Last month, the German company Flink opened warehouses in Delft and Utrecht, with the same promise: groceries on the doorstep within ten minutes. British flash deliverers Weezy, Dija and Zapp are also recruiting office workers in the Netherlands, it reports Financieele Dagblad.
But is there room for all those flash delivery people in the Netherlands? ‘Making a profit could become difficult if the dark stores delivery areas must be shared with five competitors’, according to platform specialist Arets.
Arets also has his doubts about the ten minutes. “You can see that all competitors keep the same time, because next to such a promise, an hour delivery time suddenly seems far too long.” In the United States, similar companies often use thirty minutes of delivery time, Arets says. ‘With that extra time, the delivery area per warehouse also becomes a lot larger, and that saves costs.’
Fight not over yet
Ultimately, there will only be room for one or two winners in the platform economy, says Arets. But the battle for the flash delivery market is far from over. ‘The success of such platforms often only becomes apparent in the long term.’
Luc van Emmerik is not worried about the competition. ‘We focus on our own product.’ With plans for its own private label and a motivated team, Gorillas expects to be able to grow considerably. The bell rings further up the warehouse. Nine minutes and fifty seconds to deliver the next order.