Sainsbury’s revives bicycle deliveries in central London

Sainsbury’s is using bicycles to transport essential groceries from a closed convenience store in London in an effort to bolster its delivery service during the coronavirus outbreak.

The supermarket is relaunching its one-hour bicycle delivery service, Chop Chop, from its Blackfriars store in central London, which was one of 12 small local outlets used mainly by commuters that closed last week.

UK lockdown: what are the coronavirus restrictions?

People in the UK will only be allowed to leave their home for the following purposes:

  • Shopping for basic necessities, as infrequently as possible
  • One form of exercise a day – for example a run, walk, or cycle – alone or with members of your household
  • Any medical need, to provide care or to help a vulnerable person
  • Travelling to and from work, but only where this is absolutely necessary and cannot be done from home

Police will have the powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings. To ensure compliance with the instruction to stay at home, the government will:

  • Close all shops selling non-essential goods, including clothing and electronic stores and other premises including libraries, playgrounds and outdoor gyms, and places of worship
  • Stop all gatherings of more than two people in public – excluding people you live with
  • Stop all social events, including weddings, baptisms and other ceremonies, but excluding funerals

Parks will remain open for exercise, but gatherings will be dispersed.

The Chop Chop service was suspended last month as Sainsbury’s struggled to serve stockpiling shoppers before the imposition of government restrictions on movement.

Blackfriars is being repurposed as a “dark convenience store”, stocking 400 essential grocery and household products, including milk and toilet roll, which can be delivered within 1.8 miles (3km) by the Chop Chop cyclists, who are all Sainsbury’s employees. Customers will be able to order up to 20 items for same-day delivery.

Sainsbury’s expects to be able to serve up to 3,500 customers a week from the Blackfriars store and is recruiting more riders to help deliver orders. The supermarket is expected to roll out the service to other sites if it proves popular.

The service is part of Sainsbury’s efforts to find new ways to expand home delivery to meet a massive shift in demand since the onset of the pandemic.

In normal times, the UK buys less than 7% of its groceries online but demand from households trying to avoid physical stores is far outstripping the ability of supermarkets to deliver.

Grocery spending online rose 13% in the three months to 22 March, with 14.6% of households receiving an online delivery in the past four weeks, up from less than 14% a year before. The data analysis firm Kantar said proportion was “probably well below actual demand”.

The surge in demand has led to a raft of new initiatives from grocers including the launch of emergency box schemes from Marks & Spencer and Morrisons.



Tesco has added more than 200 vans and recruited 2,500 drivers and more than 5,000 pickers to help it add more than 100,000 extra delivery slots for groceries.

A string of local delivery schemes has also been launched by independent retailers, food makers and wholesalers.

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