Skip to main content

Supermarket giant Tesco introduces virtual grocery shopping at Gatwick Airport

Has Tesco found a solution to the age-old problem of arriving home from holiday to an empty fridge? It seems to be trying its best, with the high street giant yesterday revealing a "bricks and clicks" virtual grocery store in Gatwick Airport's north terminal.

Currently set to be open from 6-19 August – said to represent the two busiest weeks of the year for the airport's departure lounge – the digital supermarket is comprised of a series of interactive virtual 'fridges', which take the place of traditional aisles and show photos of popular products available for purchase.

Consumers physically browse the store like they would their local Tesco, using their smartphone in place of a trolley and scanning product bar codes - positioned under the corresponding item images - to compile the shop they want waiting for them when they return home suntanned but peckish.

"As a busy working mum of two, I know that planning holidays can be stressful. The last thing you want is an empty fridge when you get back. When we came up with the idea for the virtual store at Gatwick, we really wanted to provide a helpful service for busy families," said Mandy Minichiello, senior marketing manager for

The UK trial - thought to be the first shopping experience of its kind in Britain - builds on similar convenience-driven mobile shopping experiences currently in place across Korea, where commuters are able to use their smartphones to buy goods via billboards in subways and at bus stops.

"Our business in Korea is teaching us a lot about how customers and technology are transforming shopping. It gives us a unique window into the future and the chance to try out exciting new concepts," said Ken Towle, Tesco's Internet retailing director.

"The virtual store blends clicks and bricks, bringing together our love of browsing with the convenience of online," he added.

Gatwick Airport's north terminal currently sends some 30,000 people into the skies every day, with each flier averaging 70 minutes of downtime before boarding.

The Tesco app that supports the scanning function and therefore enables the virtual supermarket is currently available for iOS and Android devices.

Frequent-fliers in parts of North America are also able to have their hunger satiated before take-off - albeit in a more immediate sense - after a restaurant management chain recently announced it was rolling out Apple's iPad tablets at its airport eateries, with the devices set to function as menus, wait staff, and web surfing portals.