Iceland Foods has begun trialling an online grocery service eight years after shelving the service with early results “very encouraging”.

The trial allows customers to order online up to 10pm for free delivery the next day, subject to a minimum order value of £25.

Orders are being fulfilled from a small number of Iceland stores in the North West, North East, London and the South West.

Iceland said the service will be extended to selected stores throughout the UK in the coming months.

Shoppers using the website are able to choose from the full range available at their local Iceland store if it is already participating in the trial. They can also register their interest for when the service is extended to their area.

Iceland said orders are picked from store in the early morning “so as not to impact on customer service in store during the day” and held at the appropriate temperature for delivery in the customer’s chosen time slot.

The online offering builds on Iceland’s free home delivery service for customer purchases in store of £25 and over, which is already making over 180,000 deliveries each week.

Iceland is the first UK food retailer to offer the option of payment for online orders through PayPal as well as by credit and debit card.

The launch of the online service has been supported by a £250,000 investment to create a new Centre of Excellence at Iceland’s head office in Deeside, where training will be provided to home delivery drivers, in-store pickers and store managers.

Iceland has also signed a five-year deal to replace its entire current home delivery fleet of 1,300 vehicles with Mercedes-Benz Sprinter vans, with over 300 new vans being delivered this year.

Iceland was the first grocer to launch an online service in 1999 but chief executive Malcolm Walker told Retail Week last year he canned the service on returning to the firm in 2005 to focus on its core business.

Iceland director of delivered sales John Mackie said: “We are delighted with the positive initial response to the local trials of our online service. This is exceeding our expectations for the number and size of orders we have received, and for the proportion of new customers to Iceland that the service is attracting.

“It is absolutely critical to us that the launch of online shopping should have no adverse impact on availability or service for our existing customers in store, and I am pleased that all our targets are being met. The launch of our new Iceland Driver Academy Programme at our Centre of Excellence in Deeside will help to ensure that all our home delivery drivers are ambassadors for the service on our customers’ doorsteps.”

Walker said: “Iceland was the first UK food retailer to launch a nationwide online shopping service as long ago as 1999, but maintaining it was not a priority when I was faced with the challenge of turning around a near bankrupt company on my return to the business in 2005. Now the time is right to relaunch the service, building on our well-established and smoothly running home delivery infrastructure with an easy-to-use website that sets new standards for customer friendliness.”

The retailer worked with ecommerce consultancy Portaltech Reply to launch the project in seven months.