Online supermarket Picnic is spreading all over the Netherlands at breakneck speed: in 2017 alone, the online supermarket opened a dozen new branches. The company is growing faster than its founder, Michiel Muller, could ever have imagined. A revolution in supermarket shopping? Be that as it may, this is proving to be a popular alternative for shopping in a shop, and it all started in Amersfoort.
“Amersfoort will remain the Picnic capital,” says Muller with a smile. Picnic kicked off in The New City (De Nieuwe Stad), an innovation area in and around the former Prodent factory, after the summer of 2015. In the months leading up to that, the innovative supermarket concept had already been piloted in Amersfoort, when the electric delivery vans were making their very first rounds in the Vathorst, Soesterkwartier and Nieuwland neighborhoods.
This was no coincidence, Muller underlines. “Amersfoort is a city with neighborhoods that are pretty homogenous yet different. In some neighborhoods, the children have just flown the nest, and in others they have just been born. There’s a villa district, a city district, etcetera. This makes Amersfoort a balanced reflection of Dutch society, in terms of its mix of people and its mix of behaviors. Every echelon of the working population and every level of material wealth is represented. Amersfoort, therefore, is an ideal place for testing and rolling out a new concept.”
A flying start
Which is exactly how it worked out for Muller. This is an entrepreneur with quite a track record in the corporate world. Together with Mark Schröder, he was involved in the successful Tango and Route Mobiel start-ups. And together with co-founders Joris Beckers and Frederik Nieuwenhuys, he is now involved in developing the Picnic concept. Muller confirms that Amersfoort was just the perfect launch pad for Picnic. “The local council’s account team makes a lot of effort for new companies and likes to show them the ropes so you settle in nicely. They also focus on possibilities rather than impossibilities, which really matters when you’re launching a new concept.”
Picnic was off to a flying start. Even before the concept was well and truly launched, it had already managed to build up a client base of 400 customers, which had grown into 24,000 by the end of 2016. By now, the online supermarket is making deliveries, besides Amersfoort, in Soest, Leusden, Almere, Maarssen, Utrecht, Delft, Rijswijk, Nootdorp, Voorburg, Leidschendam and many more places. Meanwhile, some 90 Picnic delivery vans are now driving around the Netherlands, and the company is employing over 400 staff. “It’s beyond our wildest dreams.”
New method of distribution
So what is the secret of their success? Picnic has devised a new method of distribution, delivering shopping in neighborhoods while cutting out unnecessary intermediaries. Customers choose what delivery ride is most convenient to them and, as they can trace the delivery van on-screen, they know down to the minute at what time the delivery will be taking place. Low-cost distribution means low-cost shopping, and delivery is free.
However many new destinations will be added, Amersfoort is set to remain the Picnic capital. “If only because we’ve got 40 Picnic vans driving around here. But this is also where we did all of our testing and learning. Amersfoort’s in our DNA now.”