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Gatwick chalks up futuristic UK virtual store first
3:31pm Tuesday 7th August 2012 in Local News
Gatwick Airport has chalked up another futuristic first with the opening of the UK’s first interactive virtual grocery store.
Tesco has opened the innovative new store idea at the airport's North Terminal.
Building on the launch of its first virtual store in South Korea last year – the first in the world – Tesco is now trialling the concept for the first time in the UK, but using interactive digital displays.
The Korean virtual store allowed commuters to shop in subways and at bus stops by pointing their mobile phones at billboards.
The innovation generated 25 million online posts around the globe.
But now using interactive digital displays, the Gatwick virtual store will allow passengers passing through the North Terminal to combine browsing, as they would in a physical store, with an online grocery shop and home delivery.
Customers will be able to view a range of everyday products by scrolling through unique moving screens on large virtual fridges.
By scanning the barcodes with smartphones, they will be able to add their chosen products to their online baskets, book a home delivery slot and checkout.
Their shopping will then be delivered when they return from holiday.
Tesco is the first retailer to offer passengers a service of this kind.
The virtual store opened this week amidst the airport's busiest two weeks of the year in Gatwick's North Terminal departure lounge, with staff on hand to help customers with the scanning and ordering process on their smartphones.
Spencer Sheen, head of retail at Gatwick Airport, said: “We all know how it feels when we arrive back home from a holiday, only to face an empty fridge or cupboard containing none of the key essentials like milk, butter or bread.”
He said: “This is why we are really excited to be working with a forward-thinking brand such as Tesco.
“What they’re offering our passengers is a shopping experience that is easy and convenient, so they have one less thing to think about when they get home, other than switching the kettle on.”
Tesco’s internet retailing director, Ken Towle, said: “Our business in Korea is teaching us a lot about how customers and technology are transforming shopping.
“It gives us a unique window into the future and the chance to try out exciting new concepts.
“The virtual store blends clicks and bricks, bringing together our love of browsing with the convenience of online shopping.”
He said: “It’s a chance to showcase what we can do to the 30,000 people a day who will depart from Gatwick’s North Terminal, many of whom will need to fill their fridges when they get home, and we’re looking forward to hearing what they think.”
Senior marketing manager for Tesco.com, Mandy Minichiello, said: “As a busy working mum of two, I know that planning holidays can be stressful.”
She said: “The last thing you want is an empty fridge when you get back.
“When we came up with the idea for the virtual store at Gatwick, we really wanted to provide a helpful service for busy families.
“You can book a delivery slot up to three weeks in advance, do a full grocery shop while waiting for a flight, and it’ll be delivered to your home when you get back.”
The virtual store system works with iPhones and phones powered by Android only, and customers will need to download the Tesco app to scan barcodes.
Gatwick has recently scored a number of airport firsts, including the opening of Jamie Oliver's first airport restaurant, won a number of key international routes, and has had millions of pounds worth of improvements spent on it.
A £53 million upgrade for its railway station is expected to start soon.
In 2010, a £1 billion programme of improvements designed to transform the passenger experience, was unveiled by the airport's owners, a group of international investment funds, of which Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP) is the majority shareholder.