The Kroger Co. has opened a “spoke” site in Johnstown, Colorado, to support online grocery delivery fulfillment in the northern part of the state.
Kroger said Thursday that the roughly 57,000-square-foot Johnstown spoke will work its 300,000-square-foot, Ocado-automated customer fulfillment center (CFC) in Aurora, which opened in March to serve the Denver metropolitan area.
Currently, the Johnstown site employs 70 associates. Online grocery orders are picked and assembled at the Aurora CFC and placed into climate-controlled vehicles for transport to the Johnstown spoke. Once the orders arrive, they are checked and put on refrigerated delivery trucks that deliver the items directly to customers. Kroger noted that chilled and frozen products remain at the proper temperature from the supplier to the customer's refrigerator.
“We look forward to connecting more customers in northern Colorado to Kroger Delivery, which brings the freshest products, including Our Brands [private labels], directly to customers' doors,” Rebekah Manis, senior director of Kroger Delivery fulfillment centers, said in a statement. “Kroger Delivery enables us to meet our customers’ unique needs and deliver value, like exceptional friendly service from our best-in-class uniformed drivers, and a personalized shopping experience with zero-compromise on convenience, value and selection.”
Kroger added that northern Colorado customers can access thousands of digital coupons online via Boost by King Soopers, the local supermarket banner’s annual grocery delivery membership program. Eligible customers can try the membership with a free 30-day trial and subscribe for as low as $7.99 a month.
Currently, Kroger has 15 Ocado-automated spokes, generally ranging from 40,000 to 80,000 square feet, in operation. The spoke sites serve as last-mile cross-dock locations and extend the reach of Kroger Delivery service. Kroger has said the larger spokes can handle additional online order capacity and extend delivery service of the CFC “hubs” to up to 200 miles.
Most recently, Kroger opened a 2,000-square-foot spoke in Independence, Kentucky, in late July. That spoke supports Kroger’s 375,000-square-foot, Ocado-powered CFC in Monroe, Ohio, just north of the grocer’s hometown of Cincinnati. The Monroe CFC also is supported by a 50,000-square-foot spoke in Louisville, Kentucky, that went live in August 2022.
In May 2018, Kroger unveiled an exclusive U.S. partnership with U.K.-based online grocery specialist Ocado Group to identify sites for about 20 automated CFCs over the ensuing three years.
The high-tech CFCs use Ocado’s vertical integration, machine learning and robotics to fill e-grocery delivery orders and—in tandem with ancillary spoke facilities—extend Kroger’s market coverage to a larger geographic footprint, including areas where it doesn’t operate brick-and-mortar stores. According to Kroger, vans may travel up to 90 minutes with orders from the hub and spoke facilities to make deliveries. Associates at the spokes deliver orders within their service area, adding ZIP codes as demand rises.
So far, Kroger has announced 17 Ocado CFCs—ranging from 135,000 to 375,000 square feet—and eight are open. The Monroe automated warehouse was the first CFC opened by Kroger, in April 2021. Another 375,000-square-foot CFC, in Groveland, Florida, that opened in June 2021 marked the first CFC in a state where Kroger doesn’t operate physical stores, except for one Harris Teeter location in Jacksonville. Besides the Aurora, Monroe and Groveland locations, other CFCs are operating in Forest Park, Georgia; Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin; Dallas; Romulus, Michigan; and Frederick, Maryland.
Aside from the Johnstown, Independence and Louisville facilities, Kroger has spokes in Austin and San Antonio, Texas; Oklahoma City; Birmingham, Alabama; Nashville, Tennessee; Maywood, Illinois; Miami, Tampa, Jacksonville and Opa-Locka, Florida; Lockbourne, Ohio; and Indianapolis. The Oklahoma City spoke expanded Kroger’s market reach to 36 states, since the retailer has no physical stores in Oklahoma.