The grocer, which has ended two previous e-retail programs, launches online deli orders.

Grocery retailer Publix Super Markets Inc. will take a small step back toward e-commerce as it launches online ordering for deli sandwiches, meats and cheeses.

The chain, concentrated in the Southeast, earlier this year stopped accepting online orders for curbside pickup at two of its more than 1,000 locations—the second time Publix quit e-retailing.  In 2003, the grocer shut down its online grocery operation.

Publix plans to launch the online deli service Aug. 3 at a store in central Florida before rolling it out to 50 more stores by year’s end. “Publix Deli Online Easy Ordering is a natural extension of our service commitment especially for on-the-go customers,” says a spokeswoman for the chain.

She would not say if the service represents the first step in a larger move back toward online retailing. “We are consistently evaluating our customers’ shopping experiences and the products and services we offer them,” she says.

Consumers using the new service will place orders via their desktops or mobile devices. Consumers select their desired goods and pickup times, and receive their order pickup numbers via e-mail. Consumers pick up their orders at a designated area in the deli department, and pay for purchases then. The service is free for consumers, and those ordering can save their favorite orders online.