SNOHOMISH — It’s not Amazon Prime, but your order will arrive on time and with a smile.
Snohomish Delivers is a free courier service arranged by the city to incentivize online shopping from mom-and-pop shops. Funded by a grant from the county, the program offers delivery from small businesses to Snohomish residents.
The brainchild of Wendy Poischbeg, the city’s economic development director, Snohomish Delivers aims to keep business in town, even if sales are pushed online by the pandemic.
“We know people are still spending money, we can see it, but they’re not shopping local, what are the barriers?” Poischbeg said. “Maybe delivery is the barrier.”
For months, Poischbeg had looked for an opportunity to make community delivery an option. She heard from shop owners who said that even a single delivery meant shutting down the store or hiring another employee.
With e-commerce excelling in the pandemic, Poischbeg wanted to give local shops a fighting chance. Online sales saw a 31.9% uptick from the first quarter of 2020 to the second, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce. And the behemoth company Amazon increased sales by more than 35% according to its third quarter reports.
A call for innovative ideas from Snohomish County resulted in $24,000 awarded to the city, in collaboration with the Snohomish Chamber of Commerce, for the pilot delivery project. The money supported development of the service, marketing and hiring a delivery driver for a few months.
Service debuted on Jan. 5 with eight Snohomish businesses onboard for the free drop-off option. Goodies from boutiques or an apothecary, as well as flowers, wine, tea and more, can be bought then brought to your front door.
“I think we are lucky that in Snohomish we are small enough that we could make a sincere attempt at really making this work,” Poischbeg said.
Bouncing around Snohomish in a blue Kia Soul, Sarah Dylan Jensen will be making the deliveries.
Also the manager of the city’s farmers market, Dylan Jensen was a familiar, trustworthy choice to represent the service in its introductory phase.
“I am super excited,” she said. “This is an extra effort to help the other businesses in the community to survive in this climate we are in.”
After the holiday season, with the gift-giving lull hitting hardest, Dylan Jensen said she was glad to help local shops keep some momentum.
She admits her service likely couldn’t compare to delivery workers from Amazon, the U.S. Postal Service or FedEx, but she’d give it her best shot during a time when shops need the most support.
The first pick-up came last week from Everything Tea, 903 First St.
Owner Gina Martello chatted with a customer and took inquiries by phone as she fulfilled the order.
By successfully shifting sales online, Martello said her numbers have improved by 50% during the pandemic. Online orders outgrew the small storefront forcing Everything Tea to expand and open a delivery center away from the First Street shop.
“We really had to adjust very quickly and change, because the times were changing,” she said.
The additional assistance from the city’s new service won’t be make or break for Martello and Everything Tea, but she said it speaks volumes about the willingness to help.
“It comes down to community and a community that cares,” Martello said. “I think it’s wonderful, the support from Snohomish.”
The tea made its way a mile through downtown to the Snohomish Senior Center.
Sharon Burlison, executive director for the center, said the delivery option will benefit vulnerable populations like older adults or folks hoping to simply avoid parking mayhem.
“I love shopping on First Street and we all have our favorite shops,” Burlison said. “Now, I can just pick out what I want and have it delivered to me, right to my doorstep.”
The service has its limitations. Only residents of the 98290 and 98296 ZIP codes are eligible and food delivery is not available at this time.
Poischbeg said the city doesn’t have the capacity to meet the demand for food and did not want to duplicate other services, like UberEats or GrubHub, that are already better suited for the task.
“If we got an order from multiple restaurants all at the same time, with one driver there is really no way we would be able to get everybody’s food and represent each restaurant the way they want to be represented,” she said.
In time, Poischbeg said it’s possible food that doesn’t need immediate delivery may be available for same-day drop-off.
Shops participating in the pilot project include Annie’s on First, Shackelford Vintners, Kasia Winery, Cedar Avenue Integrative Medicine, Everything Tea, Snohomish Apothecary, Oopsie Daisy Boutique and Sprig Flower Co.
Locals interested in the Snohomish Delivers service will complete the typical online checkout process from a participating business and have the option of local delivery. The merchant will then connect with the program to confirm and schedule the delivery. In no time, it’ll be at your door.
“I feel like I am pretty lucky that the city is willing to let us take the risk and see if it is helpful,” Poischbeg said. “Maybe this is where real innovation happens, what if this is so in demand and is a game changer for the businesses?”