The COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be devastating for the global economy, decimating industries and eliminating jobs.
This pandemic has endangered approximately 7.5 million small businesses in the United States, according to a study by Main Street America. These 7.5 million businesses could close with five months with 3.5 million that could possibly close in two months. Unemployment has also skyrocketed in the United States, reaching more than 22 million in recent week. The national unemployment average increased to 4.4 percent in March 2020 with the April unemployment rate looking to be significantly higher.
While in quarantine, it is tempting to take a break from the grind of everyday life, to kick back and relax. Many Arkansans have found themselves with increased free time as a result of lay-offs or furloughs during the COVID-19 or because of the freedom from working from home.
However, this “free time” has proven to be an incubator for exciting new startups. One Northwest Arkansas startup is looking to change the game when it comes to online grocery shopping and delivery.
This startup, called FastBags, is designed to be a one-stop digital grocery store with same-day delivery. Founded by Tanner Green and Phillip Cannon, the company is well-positioned to solve a problem caused by the COVID-19 pandemic – the difficulty of making it to the grocery store.
Under normal circumstances, Tanner Green would be overseeing operations for Oculogx, a startup that provides wearable technology for retail stores and distribution to improve order picking, where he serves as head of operations. Green and Cannon found themselves with a unique opportunity – the chance to start their own venture.
“We felt like it would solve some problems and help people out. A little over a month ago, we were taking a little bit of time out of our day to work on it. We ended up creating FastBags.”
The team tossed around different ideas but quickly settled on creating a grocery delivery service. Even during the best of times, grocery shopping can be a pain, with Green admitting that he isn’t a fan of the weekly ritual of picking up supplies. FastBags is aimed at alleviating the weekly struggle of going to the store, getting all of the necessary items and getting them home.
“It was horrible because you work all week, and then you end up going and you have to go buy hundreds of dollars-worth of groceries. We decided we can make that process a little bit easier and more efficient to save people time,” he said.
In order to use the service, customers go the FastBags’ website and begin adding the items they want to purchase to their digital cart. FastBags has multiple categories listed on its site, including beverages, bread, fresh meat, frozen foods, pantry goods, snacks, personal care, pharmacy, and household goods.
Once the order is complete, customers can schedule a delivery for as soon as two hours. Orders that are placed by 5 p.m. are guaranteed for same-delivery.
This is when the FastBags team steps in – they begin picking customers’ groceries at the local store using social distancing and hygiene practices. All team members will be using gloves and masks while picking and delivering groceries. If a desired item isn’t available, the shopper will text the customer to offer a suggested substitution. Team members will even search for items not listed on FastBags’ website.
Once all the groceries have been purchased, the team will deliver it to customers in a contact-less manner. All the groceries will be delivered in bins to the customer’s home in bins, which will be placed outside for the homeowners to collect, and then the delivery team will collect the bins.
“The best way I can imagine someone using it is that every time you think of something, you add it to your grocery list on FastBags…you do that all week, and then at the end of the week, you place your order and it shows up the same day,” Green said.
“You add your groceries, and then you schedule a delivery time, and then it shows up in a bin. You collect your groceries and bring them inside and then our team retrieves the bin. It’s really that simple.”
Green, Cannon and their team quickly mobilized make FastBags operational in response to the increased demand caused by COVID-19 and have already begun offering their services. While the team is still building out its tech side and operations, it is operating in the greater Fayetteville area. According to Green, FastBags is delivering in Fayetteville, Farmington, Prairie Grove, Goshen Springdale, Greenland and other surrounding areas.
That’s just the beginning for this upstart company, though. Green plans to make FastBags a long-term, sustainable operation because he sees the need for increased delivery options in daily life.
Grocery delivery is a viable market, and it only looks to grow. According to Business Insider’s Online Grocery Report, the U.S. online grocery market increased in value from $12 billion in 2016 to $26 billion in 2018. With the increased necessity of staying indoors, online grocery shopping – and delivery – will only continue its ascent.
Green points to Instacart, a San Francisco-headquartered grocery delivery company, as a like-minded company to FastBags. What sets FastBags apart from Instacart is its delivery speed and the demographic it services. Instcart services mostly metropolitan areas and can have longer delivery times, while FastBags is committed to starting in the Northwest Arkansas region and providing quick same-day delivery.
“We have a lot of problems right now during the pandemic, and this is a great time to get started. In the long run, it’s going to make life easier for a lot of people and because of that, it’s going be extremely sustainable.”