Publix Postpones Expansion Plans for Online Shopping

LAKELAND, Fla. - Publix's Internet grocery subsidiary, PublixDirect, has postponed its expansion plans for Atlanta and Orlando, choosing instead to hone its operations in South Florida, the Lakeland Ledger reports.

PublixDirect, based in Alpharetta, Ga., began taking grocery orders over the Internet in South Florida in early October, and it is processing them at its Pompano Beach grocery warehouse. PublixDirect trucks deliver groceries to homes in 106 ZIP codes throughout the area, the Lakeland Ledger reports. Publix spokesman Dwaine Stevens said the service has added new products to its online lineup, including fresh flowers and sushi, and it recently delivered to its 100,000th customer.

"We are doing about 5,000 orders per week, which is pretty good for right now," Stevens said.

But PublixDirect has not stuck to its goals in two other markets. A January 2001 news release said the service expected to start delivering groceries in Orlando this past spring. Stevens told the newspaper that Publix has put its Orlando operation on hold and has no set timeline.

Meanwhile, PublixDirect expected to start serving Atlanta sometime this year. Stevens said PublixDirect is waiting to see the first-year financial results from South Florida, which should come out in early 2003. He said PublixDirect would make the "appropriate decisions" for Atlanta at that time, but he declined to say what the decisions might be.

Publix is filling orders from a massive grocery warehouse, while most Internet grocery companies are choosing a less-expensive model of filling orders directly from a supermarket, critics note.