For those who believe that the recent influx of Amazon delivery vans means another nail in the coffin of local independent retailers, a new service is being launched in Winnipeg Wednesday that could help level the playing field.
Winnipeg will be the third market for Trexity — an Ottawa-based company that launched in its home town in the fall of 2019 and added the Toronto market in 2020 — providing same-day delivery service for local retailers for an average cost of about $7.50 per delivery.
Alok Ahuja, Trexity’s CEO (he was a former senior executive with Shopify) said the idea was to give the local advantage back to the neighborhood speciality shop, an advantage that has been hampered by Amazon’s aggressive abilty to do two-day delivery of just about anything all over the world.
"We set out to build the platform to give merchants a fighting chance to compete against Amazon and win," said Ahuja who is in Winnipeg this week to meet with merchants and drivers.
The company has more than 500 merchants in its system in Ottawa and Toronto and hopes to have about 50 in Winnipeg when it goes live this week.
"Why was Amazon the only one that could move packages as fast as they do? It’s because they have these multi-million dollar fulfilment centres," said Ahuja. "But all my favorite stores are just filled to the brim with inventory. We wanted to help them move product within the hour. That’s the platform that Trexity enables them to do."
"All my favorite stores are just filled to the brim with inventory. We wanted to help them move product within the hour." –Alok Ahuja
The likes of Uber and SkipTheDishes having perfected the technology to track lots of deliveries, and Trexity, too, gives both the merchants and customers the ability to see where their package is.
Those other delivery companies have also created the driver gig economy that Trexity will also leverage off of.
Ahuja says Trexity takes pride in paying drivers more than the other companies. Drivers take 70 per cent of the delivery fee — as opposed to between 55 and 62 per cent with other delivery companies – and do not have to worry about unpleasant passengers or potentially messy or odorous restaurant deliveries.
Jay Myers, one of the founders of Bold Commerce is an early investor in Trexity (as is local real estate developer Sandy Shindleman). Myers became friends with Ahuja when he was at Shopify.
He has a deep empathy for creating tools that help small- and medium-sized enterprises increase sales.
Myers said among other things, Trexity’s platform allows retailers to retain ownership of their customers as opposed to the restaurant delivery companies where the whole transaction takes place on the delivery app where you become the delivery company’s customer rather than the restaurant’s customer.
Myers said back in its early days of Skip he tried to connect them with a big name retailer that used Bold’s apps on Shopify, but it didn’t happen because the retailer did not want to lose ownership of the customer.
"When Trexity came along I remember the first time I heard about it I thought it was perfect," said Myers. "The whole experience happens on the brand site. It is just another shipping option."
Trexity’s fees are calculated by distance and time – they’ve actually got the delivery down to the precise minute the package will arrive – and merchants can chose to cover some, or all of the costs themselves.
On the driver side, Ahuja takes pride in the focus group approach to recruiting drivers.
"We tout ourselves as honest delivery," he said.
"We tout ourselves as honest delivery." –Alok Ahuja
One thing he heard from drivers from other services is how they don’t like having to pick up one Big Mac at a McDonald’s and then deliver it and go back to a restaurant to pick up one more order.
Trexity customers are encouraged to bundle orders. After all, a new pair of shoes won’t be less excellent if they arrive in a couple of hours as opposed to 45 minutes.
"We doubled down on the bundling functionality," Ahuja said. "Merchants can have a number of orders for one driver so instead of deploying several cars for all the orders, Trexity deploys just one so we can minimize the number of cars on the road."
Ajuha’s Shopify connections gives him a large rolodex full of connections with retailers. The plan is to move quickly into other Canadian cities including Edmonton, Calgary and Halifax and to start launching in tier II U.S. cities next year.
Martin Cash has been writing a column and business news at the Free Press since 1989. Over those years he’s written through a number of business cycles and the rise and fall (and rise) in fortunes of many local businesses.