With 40 million seniors now over 65 and growing by 10,000 per day, the need for senior service businesses is growing rapidly. One of the most popular senior services is a grocery shopping service. Many seniors are homebound due to health or medical conditions or unable to drive. They need help with everyday errands, like shopping for groceries.
Combine that with the results of a recent national survey that found 60% of consumers rated grocery shopping as one of the two least-liked chores, and you’ve got the recipe for an ideal business. After all, who wants to wait in long lines or deal with crowded stores and parking lots when you can simply pick up the phone and have someone do it for you. That’s why a grocery shopping business offers a valuable service to seniors or anyone short on time.
As long as you have a reliable vehicle with room for groceries, a cell phone and a personal computer for emails, the cost of starting a grocery shopping service is almost zero – just a few dollars for flyers and business cards to let potential customers know about your business.
Megan Ross began a grocery shopping service for seniors in the Seattle area five years ago as a part of her senior errand service. A single mom with two kids, Megan likes the flexibility and freedom of providing grocery shopping and errand services for local seniors, as well as the satisfaction of helping elders who genuinely appreciate her. She was amazed at how fast the word spread from each satisfied client to their friends.
“One day, I was running errands for 3 seniors, and within a month, there were 32! And they all say they don’t know how they got by before they found me.”
Here are a few tips for starting your own grocery shopping service:
1. Use a simple grocery shopping agreement to spell out the details, such as the cost of each trip, how to order, payment, where to put groceries if client is not home and so on. You’ll find a detailed agreement in the forms section of How to Start a Profitable Senior Errand Service.
2. Pass out a several copies of a simple list to each client, divided into the sections found at most supermarkets, such as produce, baked goods, meat, breakfast cereals, dairy, frozen foods, etc. This makes it easier for them to remember all the items they want you to purchase.
3. Take the time to sit down with each new client before the first shopping trip to talk about personal preferences, such as brands, sizes and other details. Take notes, and keep this information handy when you’re shopping.
4. Put together a supply of re-useable shopping bags in different colors so, when you are shopping for several clients at one time, each client’s groceries are color-coded to prevent mix-ups.
5. Pay for each client’s groceries separately and get a duplicate receipt – one for the client and one for your records.
6. Carry your cell phone on every trip so you can call a client if an item on their list is not available, or not the size or brand they prefer, or not within their budget. After a while, you’ll have a good idea of each client’s personal preferences.
7. Be firm about extra charges. Your time is income, and you don’t want to wast it running from store to store to please a picky customer. If you can’t get an item at your regular store, charge for the extra time to go elsewhere.
8. Have a printed rate card so your clients know what the cost of a shopping trip will be. The most common is a basic fee to cover your vehicle expenses, $8-$12 per order, for example, plus a commission on the order total. A 15% commission is typical.
9. Plan on carrying a large ice chest so cold or frozen foods stay that way until you reach the client’s home. Make sure someone will be there to put the groceries away, or have your client make other arrangements, such as a hidden key or a neighbor. It’s best to have a client home when you arrive with the groceries, as you’ll also need to get paid.
Starting a grocery shopping service, especially when combined with a senior errand service, could be your ticket to a successful part-time or full-time business with a low start-up cost and flexible hours. To learn more, read How to Start a Start a Profitable Grocery Shopping Business.