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Published January 06, 2010, 12:00 AM

Cold snap boosts online grocery sales in area

Melissa Ortez shopped online for groceries for the first time Sunday.

By: Jon Knutson, INFORUM

Melissa Ortez shopped online for groceries for the first time Sunday.

The Fargo resident wanted to spend as little time as possible outdoors that day, when the temperature reached a low of 28 below.

“I just didn’t want to face more of that weather. Shopping online was a lot nicer. I really liked it,” she said.

Ortez isn’t alone in her online grocery shopping.

Area residents have been ordering more groceries electronically, and having the items delivered to their homes, during the recent cold spell.

“We’ve been doing more business, but that’s usual when it’s cold,” said Matt Weippert, home delivery manager for Cash Wise in Fargo.

Some of the increased sales are going to seniors, but customers of all ages are more likely to buy online when temperatures are cold, he said.

Cash Wise typically has twice as many employees handling home deliveries in winter as in the summer, he said.

Hornbacher’s Foods in Fargo and Moorhead is also seeing greater online demand recently, said Dean Hornbacher, its president.

“We always see more when the weather turns cold,” he said.

Hornbacher’s doesn’t have problems finding employees to deliver groceries during cold spells, he said.

Online customers represent a cross section of the community, though busy families with children tend to the most frequent online shoppers, he said.

Online grocery sales are relatively insignificant nationwide, according to the market research firm JupiterResearch.

Though online sales are projected to grow steadily, they’re expected to account for less than 1 percent of overall U.S. grocery sales in 2012, according to the research firm.

Online grocery shoppers typically are charged a fee for delivery, although the fee can be eliminated if the order reaches a certain dollar amount.

Ortez said she’d been interested for some time in shopping online, in part because she wondered if she could compare prices and items more efficiently at home than in the store.

“The cold weather gave me a reason to finally try it, she said of her online shopping.

Online grocery shopping’s cold-weather popularity surge likely will continue for at least a few more days.

Tuesday’s forecasts called for a low today of 4 below, with Thursday’s high at only 3 below and Friday’s high pegged at 5 below.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jonathan Knutson at (701) 241-5530