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    SimonDelivers No More

    Bowing to pressures such as rising fuel and food prices, the Midwest online grocer will pack it in at the end of July.

    "After almost nine years of striving to provide you with an exceptional online grocery experience, we are sad to say that we are going out of business." And so it goes for online grocer SimonDelivers, which will shut down by month's end as a result of what it said was increasing pressure from escalating fuel and food prices.

    The New Hope, Minn. based company will deliver its final orders over the next two weeks, and then close shop permanently. SimonDelivers' 300 employees were informed of the decision earlier this week, as were its roughly 19,000 customers, who learned of the news via email.

    Liwanag Ojala, president of SimonDelivers, said the company had problems overcoming "the current economic conditions, which have affected our costs and our customers' purchasing decisions."

    A visit to the online grocer's Web site revealed a "Going out of Business Inventory Clearance" sale, with its entire inventory of grocery items on clearance.

    "We will continue to take orders on a day-to-day basis, until our inventory is gone," the company said. "All orders must be scheduled for next day delivery only; no advance orders. Orders will be filled on a first-come, first-serve basis. We recommend you complete the checkout process to help ensure availability of product."

    SimonDelivers' Web site went on to say, "When we opened this business nine years ago, we made a promise to provide you with a great Web site, great products, and most importantly, great service. We are sad that we cannot continue to fulfill that promise."

    Tough times began to intensify over the last year at the New Hope, Minn.-based company, leading some industry observers to predict that the end was near. In February, it was revealed that SimonDelivers' revenues had dropped sharply between 2006 and 2007, roughly at the same time that Lund Food Holdings in nearby Edina entered the home delivery market with a local startup partner, Gopher Grocery, Inc.

    The company last month said it would lay off about 6 percent of its workforce, or 17 employees, in its business-to-business department.

    It also recently enacted other cost-cutting measures, such as adding fuel surcharges, establishing a minimum order amount of $50 and adopting a more efficient routing system.

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