The Co-op is expanding its robot home-delivery service and revealed plans to offer online delivery and click and collect from 1,000 stores by the end of the year. 

The convenience specialist is rolling out its use of Starship Technologies’ autonomous robots into Northampton from today, following a successful pilot in neighbouring Milton Keynes. 

The Co-op has ambitions to use 300 of Starship Technologies’ robots by the end of 2021.

The mutual first teamed up with the tech firm in 2018, using its robots to offer emission-free online home deliveries in Milton Keynes and surrounding areas.

The expansion into Northampton will allow the Co-op to reach around 5,000 more households via the autonomous robots. Deliveries will initially be made from its store in Wootton Fields.

It comes as the Co-op accelerates its shift online during the coronavirus pandemic. The grocer said it is on track to offer rapid online deliveries through its own ecommerce platform and delivery partners Deliveroo, Buymie and Pinga from 1,000 stores by the end of next month, outstripping its initial targets.  

At the start of the year, the Co-op had aimed to offer online deliveries and click-and-collect services from 650 shops. 

The Co-op’s head of ecommerce Chris Conway said: “We continue to look for new ways to innovate and expand access to our products and services to deliver a truly compelling offer for consumers. Our partnership with Starship enables Co-op to offer further availability, flexibility and choice to meet community shopping needs for on-demand convenience. 

“We have seen big changes in ecommerce this year with new customers using the channel that have never used it before, and seeing the benefits. Offering quality and value quickly, easily and conveniently is core to Co-op’s approach – delivering what our members and customers want, when and where they need it.”

The Co-op said the number of deliveries completed by robots in Milton Keynes has tripled during the pandemic, as elderly and vulnerable customers opt for the contactless method of online food shopping.  

Starship Technologies’ robots use sensors, AI and machine learning to travel on pavements and navigate around obstacles. They are also battery powered, therefore helping to reduce pollution.