Alas, it probably doesn't mean Albertson's will need any ofWebvan's recently vacated distribution warehouses. As of April, theBoise, ID-based grocer uses its brick-and-mortar stores to fulfillpick-up and delivery orders. Thanks to the boom, Albertson's isexpanding its Puget Sound delivery south to Tacoma and north toMarysville ahead of schedule, and is considering picking up thepace even further.

"By bringing our bricks and mortar investment to bear on theonline portion of our business, we have created the online modelwith virtually no financial outlays, other than system developmenttime and back-end cost," says Patrick Steele, Albertson's executivevice president of information and technology. "n traditionalgrocery terms, handling this increase in volume would be roughlyequivalent to building a super-store in three weeks--a processwhich normally takes about a year."

Albertson's says it has begun delivering to several new ZIPcodes in Marysville and Tacoma. The company has designated onestore in each of those cities as a "fulfillment center" and willbegin delivering groceries from those stores to customers July 23.Until then, existing fulfillment stores in other cities will handlethe deliveries.

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