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New gig economy service bringing groceries right to your door

MURRAY โ€” Anyone who has had to negotiate a busy grocery story juggling a shopping list, a toddler and an infant can probably relate to the epiphany Bill Smith had when doing just that at home in Birmingham, Alabama, about four years ago.

There's got to be an easier way.

And Smith came up with an answer to his own question, launching Shipt in 2014, a home delivery service that, for an annual subscription of $99, will take care of the shopping for you, including delivery to your front door.

Now, the service is available in Utah. Shipt has partnered with Dick's, Macey's, Fresh Market, HoneyBee and Target stores in Salt Lake City, Provo and Ogden. After signing up and placing your order, you can have your groceries delivered as fast as an hour later.

Amy Leachman, Shipt partner success manager, said the ease of using the company's service, which can be engaged via a smartphone app, tablet or home computer, is a boon for more than just busy moms and dads.

"Shipt helps create convenience and it goes well beyond just being a great help to the parent with young kids," Leachman said. "We're working for people in a wide demographic, including single, young working individuals who may not have a car or just want to use their time doing other things. Shipt is also a great option for those who are homebound or have mobility challenges."

The way the service works is the customer, using the Shipt app or website, browses products in the store of their choice, places their order and sets a delivery window. That can be in as little as an hour after the order goes in, or at some later time that suits the customer, according to Leachman. Once the Shipt "shopper" begins filling the order, they will send a text to the customer to let them know fulfillment has begun and to verify if the customer wants to make any changes or additions to their list. The shopper will also notify the customer when they are on the way to make the delivery though, at this time, there is no tracking feature, akin to what users of popular ride hailing services may be used to.

Leachman said there is also the ability to include special instructions when an order is placed if, say, someone likes their bananas on the green side or if only the ripest cantaloupe will do. Also, not every item in every store is available for Shipt shopping and delivery, but Leachman said "far the majority" of a store's inventory can be ordered via Shipt.

Kelly Hagblom has worked for Shipt for a little over two years in her hometown of Nashville, Tennessee. She was in Utah for Shipt's launch last week, helping to get a new batch of Shipt shoppers up to speed for the company's Wasatch Front service launch. Hagblom said the combination of a very flexible work schedule, and her enjoyment of feeling like she's helping make people's lives easier, has kept her with the company. She also highlighted how well she's been treated by Shipt.

"We're very much a community-based company, both in relationships with customers and the company's relationships with contract employees," Hagblom said. "That integrity, of really taking care of us and really taking care of the customers, I think is what's put us on the map and made us successful."

Hagblom also noted that being a member of the gig economy was working out for her from a fiscal perspective, as well. Numerous analysis efforts, including a recent report from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, have highlighted the low earnings those working in the gig economy โ€” like drivers working for ride-hailing services Uber and Lyft โ€” who also rely on contract employees in their business models.

"Financially, as a contract employee, I make a better income than I did in my previous work as a preschool teacher," Hagblom said. "A lot of folks that I know (working for Shipt) have really been happy with the compensation."

Shipt attracted over $65 million in funding and was experiencing a healthy growth cycle as an entrepreneurial effort. But Target acquired the business for $550 million last December and the company, which has been working to maintain its market share under pressure from online retailers like Amazon, has accelerated Shipt's growth even further. Shipt was doing deliveries in about 70 U.S. cities at the end of 2017 but is currently at 100 metros, with more planned by the end of the year, according to Leachman.

Shipt is offering a $49 annual membership to new Wasatch Front customers through Mother's Day. To learn more about the service, visit www.shipt.com.

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