High street food retailer Iceland will roll out the UK's first nationwide Internet-based supermarket shopping service this autumn.
The retailer had hoped to launch the home shopping service over digital TV in June. Iceland will offer the shopping service on digital TV when it launches: interactive digital TV services will not be launched by British Interactive Broadcasting until September.
The company, which began offering an in-store home delivery service to its customers two years ago, has been investing heavily in OS/2-based systems over the past seven years to create a centrally-managed stock control and ordering system.
This allows it to take customer orders at a central call centre, but fulfil the orders based on a local store's available stock and delivery vans. The company has been testing this sales model using a telephone ordering service since September 1998.
"We will have the service online at the start of the autumn, but we can't be any more specific than that right now," said a spokeswoman. Iceland faces tough competition from Tesco, which has been piloting a limited Internet supermarket service covering 22 stores in the south-east, with plans to extend the scheme to more than 100 stores by February 2000.
The ailing clothes-to-food retailer Marks and Spencer has also announced plans to embrace Internet shopping. The company intends to be selling selected clothes nationwide by Christmas this year, following a trial among staff of BT.
"With five million hits a month [on the M&S website] it makes sound commercial sense to test out the website as a selling medium," said Peter Robinson, head of the company's ecommerce unit. M&S has seen its annual profits slide to £635m this year from £1.1bn.
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