Lula Virtual C-Store Is on the Rise

The Philadelphia start-up looks to help small operators digitize their stores and offer last-mile fulfillment.

September 07, 2021

Lulu Virtual C-Store Service

PHILADELPHIA—Upstart Lula is a technology company that aims to transform independent brick-and-mortar convenience stores into last-mile micro-fulfillment centers to deliver a range of need-it-now products to consumers via third-party partners like Doordash and UberEats.

Lula says it is “democratizing e-commerce for stores that may traditionally not have the means to deliver online.”

The company is based in Philadelphia but has global ambitions. Founded in 2020 by Drexel University graduates Adit Gupta and Tom Falzani, Lula this summer closed a seed round of investor funding to enable 30-minute delivery from thousands of c-stores nationwide.

The idea behind Lula was born of the pandemic as Gupta searched for a way to revive his family’s New Jersey convenience store via online orders. The duo saw “the tremendous market opportunity to build a nationally scalable instant-needs delivery service without the laborious task of re-building micro-fulfillment centers,” according to a Lula blog.

Lula in August announced a collaboration with National Convenience Distributors, a wholesale distributor of candy, snacks, fresh sandwiches and salads, tobacco products, coffee, ice cream and frozen and refrigerated foods to more than 14,000 customers in the 11 contiguous states from Maine to Maryland.

Leveraging that supply chain access, Lulu says it will help thousands of NCD convenience store customers create virtual Lula Convenience Store listings on third-party delivery service platforms.

Among the goals: Helping smaller operators move inventory and evolve in the digital world. The target audience is c-stores, pharmacies and consumer packaged goods brands without secondary sales channels.

Lula’s solution digitizes physical store inventories while providing a single point of contact with all major delivery solutions—with the benefit of managing inventory and assisting store owners with every order.

Consumers who use delivery services like Postmates, Grubhub and Doordash can find virtual store listings on these platforms under the "convenience" section, labeled as "Lula Convenience Store."

“Partnering stores see a 30% increase in revenue by delivering their existing 3,000+ products within a 10-mile delivery radius,” according to Lula, which says it can readily onboard stores remotely in all 50 states in the U.S. market.

Lula is currently serving convenience stores in Philadelphia, New York, New Jersey and Florida, with plans to expand nationally in new markets during 2022.

The NACS Research study, “Last Mile Fulfillment in Convenience Retail,” found that 57% of convenience retailers offer some form of last-mile delivery, with European and Australian operators outpacing U.S. c-stores by more than 50%. While third-party platforms, such as Door Dash and Uber Eats, provide most services, about one-third of convenience retailers use their own staff to make off-premise deliveries.

To read more about the challenges associated with e-commerce and last-mile services and what consumers expect from retailers, read “Covering the Last Mile” in NACS Magazine.

Register to attend the 2021 NACS Show October 5-8, at McCormick Place in Chicago and take advantage of the education sessions on technology and the customer experience, including these sessions developed by retailers for retailers: