Kroger Co., the giant but aging supermarket chain, has unleashed a flurry of initiatives to ensure it won’t get thumped in a post-Amazon-buying-Whole-Foods world: It is revamping locations, bought a meal-kit company, and sold off its convenience-store business. Its biggest gamble, though, is a partnership with British online grocer Ocado Group Plc. The two plan to build as many as 20 automated grocery warehouses in the U.S. to help Kroger turbocharge its e-commerce operation.
Grocery has proven a uniquely tough business to bring into the online era. Orders often have dozens of items – some frozen, some cold, some room temperature – and much of the inventory is perishable. That simply makes for a different challenge than the one Amazon.com Inc. has successfully tackled by getting a single laptop computer or phone charger on your doorstep in one day.. . . more