Remote shopping on trial at Safeway

Safeway and IBM announced the UK's first remote shopping service Thursday, designed to let customers order their shopping using a portable device long before they even see a trolley.

The supermarket giant is running a four month trial for the ‘Easi-Order' service at its Basingstoke branch in Hampshire.

Using a hand held device, which also acts as a personal organiser, customers can pre-select goods from an onscreen list, tailored for each customer from past purchases. Once the goods have been chosen, the ‘Easi-Order' is sent to the supermarket via a modem. Safeway says the goods will be packed and ready by the time the customer arrives.

Easi-Order will also make suggestions based on the shopping lists of other shoppers and will offer specials and promotions. For example, if you constantly buy Palma ham, you may be offered a special price on melons.

A spokesperson for IBM says the system will become very popular, "particularly amongst professionals who are on tight schedules."

Safeway has yet to decide whether the devices will be available to rent, on loan or to buy.

Sainsbury's and Tesco have been working on similar projects.