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The East Bay Business Times reports that new data suggests that the online US grocery industry should reach $8.8 billion in sales in 2004, up from $200 million just five years ago, and is likely to grow at a rate of close to 20 percent annually over the next four or five years.

Safeway.com is reported to be one of the bright spots of this growth, according to the paper, and expects "strong performance in the first and second quarters of this year, driven by continued customer demand for our online grocery shopping service. Advertising and, more importantly, word-of-mouth testimonials from satisfied customers continue to fuel our growth. To meet this increase in demand, we plan to open new (order fulfillment) stores around the greater Bay Area in the coming months."

The company also is planning some service enhancements, including a broader fresh food selection and an ability to order direct from the company's ad circular.
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