Photo:Shipt vets its shoppers by conducting interviews, reviewing driving records, doing background checks and requiring vehicle inspections. Drivers can expect to earn $15 to $25 an hour.
Southwest Florida Roundup
Groceries are ‘Shipt' home
An Alabama grocery delivery service targets Publix shoppers.
In 2001, Lakeland-based Publix tried reaching out to customers with a next-day home delivery service for online grocery orders. Two years later, it ended the service after losing millions of dollars. A second effort five years ago was even shorter-lived — Publix offered online ordering with curbside pickup at three participating stores but failed to attract many customers.
While the grocer has no plans to reintroduce its own delivery service, a mobile technology company — unaffiliated with Publix — is now offering Publix customers in some Florida markets a new opportunity to shop online.
Shipt, based in Birmingham, Ala., enables customers to order and pay through its mobile app. Shipt then sends shoppers to Publix stores to pick up and deliver the groceries the same day.
The membership-based service, which began operating in Florida last August, offers deliveries of orders of more than $35 for $99 a year or $14 a month; orders less than $35 carry a $7 delivery fee. Shipt also marks up the prices of some products — a gallon of 1% Publix milk costs $3.39 at the store vs. $4.19 through Shipt, for example.
The company dodges costly infrastructure investments by filling orders at Publix stores rather than a dedicated warehouse. Its shoppers, who are independent contractors, drive their own cars and are paid a commission based on order size.
Although there’s no formal partnership between Shipt and Publix, each stands to benefit from the other’s success. To the extent that customers are willing to pay for convenience, delivery can be the differentiator. “We spend a lot of money in Publix stores,” says Shipt founder and CEO Bill Smith. “You could view Shipt as Publix’s largest customer.”
Publix says it appreciates Shipt’s business, but Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous says most customers enjoy browsing the aisles and picking out their own food, especially fruits and vegetables.
“By and large, our customers are coming to Publix because of the environment and experience we create,” she says. “Our customers still prefer to interact with our associates.”
Innovation -- Business Overdrive
Two years ago, the Tampa Bay Innovation Center was looking for a place to open an incubator aimed at helping young tech companies grow. After an extensive search, it chose the site of a former parking garage at St. Petersburg College’s downtown campus.
TEC Garage provides entrepreneurs with inexpensive workspace, networking opportunities, management advice and other support services. Clients include PikMyKid, an app that aims to streamline the after-school dismissal process for parents, and Toonari, which seeks to uncover cybercrime on social media.
“The demand for what we do since moving downtown has more than tripled,” says Tonya Elmore, CEO of the Tampa Bay Innovation Center, previously located in mid-Pinellas County. “People just like the vibe of being downtown.”
Shelley Broader, who led Walmart Canada and oversaw the retailer’s operations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, became president and CEO of Fort Myersbased Chico’s. Her predecessor, David Dyer, will remain as vice chairman.
Mark O’Brien retired as CEO of Walter Investment Management in Tampa and was replaced by Denmar Dixon, previously the company’s chief investment officer.
- ANNA MARIA ISLAND — Tampa-based Mainsail Lodging & Development began construction on a $30-million resort with 37 units and a 50-slip marina in Holmes Beach.
- BARTOW — Clearwater-based BayCare Health System bought the 72-bed Bartow Regional Medical Center from Community Health Systems for an undisclosed amount.
- BRADENTON — Roper Technologies is buying legal software company Aderant Holdings of Atlanta for $675 million.
- CLEARWATER — Steelbridge Capital of Miami bought the 50,220-sq.-ft. Park Place Office & Promenade from Chicago- based Equity Office Properties Trust for $22 million.
- FORT MYERS — High-tech security firm CPR Tools, previously based in LaBelle, moved its headquarters and 20 jobs with an average annual salary of $77,000 to downtown.
- HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY — County commissioners passed a wage theft ordinance to help resolve claims by workers who believe they’ve been cheated out of pay or benefits.
- OLDSMAR — Lockheed Martin unveiled a $5-million, 2.25-megawatt solar panel array at its Oldsmar campus, projecting savings of up to $400,000 annually in electricity costs.
- PUNTA GORDA — Cheney Bros. Opened a food distribution center, creating 380 jobs.
- SARASOTA — Cardiologists from Columbia University will help Sarasota Memorial Hospital enhance its electrophysiology program under an expanded partnership.
- ST. PETE BEACH — Loews Hotels will spend $7.8 million to renovate the Beach House Suites, a 70-room sister property owned by the Don CeSar resort since 1997. Loews also is spending $2 million to create a bar and restaurant at the historic 277-room Don CeSar.
- ST. PETERSBURG — Arkansas-based Bank of the Ozarks bought the parent of C1 Bank for $402.5 million. C1 founder and CEO Trevor Burgess will be chief innovation officer at Bank of the Ozarks and president of its Florida operations. > Kucera Properties, which owns Priatek Plaza downtown, plans to build an adja-cent tower with offices and a hotel. > The Morean Arts Center’s Chihuly Collection will move from Beach Drive to a new location downtown with more space.
- TAMPA — MacDill Air Force Base generated $4.74 billion in regional economic impact in 2014, creating nearly 25,000 jobs, according to base officials. That was up from $3.4 billion and 18,000 jobs in 2012.
- Chicago-based Oxford Capital Group bought the 261-room Best Western Bay Harbor hotel at Rocky Point, including Hulk Hogan’s Hogan’s Beach restaurant, for $34.5 million. > Nielsen Audio sued radio shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge Clem over ratings tampering charges, seeking at least $1 million on each of five counts. > Peak 10, an IT infrastructure and cloud services provider, opened its third Tampa data center.
- VENICE — Businessman Chris Doherty, who owns multiple auto dealerships in Florida and North Carolina, bought Cramer Honda of Venice and Cramer Toyota of Venice.
- WESLEY CHAPEL — Simon Premium Outlets opened a 441,000-sq.-ft. outlet mall with more than 100 stores near I-75.