Why are grocery stores going dark?
Many stores are being turned into fulfillment centers to meet online demand
Increasing numbers of people are going online for their grocery shopping instead of leaving their homes to go in person, in light of the Covid-19 crisis.
As a result, some grocery stores are now turning their locations into “dark stores” so that they can keep up with demand.
What this means in effect is that those stores will not be open to IRL customers. Instead, they’ll be used to fulfil orders for grocery delivery.
As The Motley Fool reports, Amazon is turning at least one of its Whole Foods stores ‘dark’ in order to essentially transform them into fulfillment centers. The physical stores will only be open to employees who work to fulfil orders for delivery and pickup from other nearby stores.
Amazon’s Vice President of Grocery Delivery, Stephenie Landry, wrote in a company blog, “We have opened our Woodland Hills, California grocery store as a temporary online-only store, focused exclusively on fulfilling grocery delivery orders.”
Kroger is also going dark. It recently converted one of its Cincinnati, Ohio, stores to a dark-store fulfillment center. Giant Eagle has also switched over several of its stores to online order fulfillment.
The idea of dark stores is not new. CNN reported on the trend back in October last year: “Walmart, Albertsons, Stop & Shop, Meijer, Hy-Vee and others are building automated mini-warehouses inside their stores and opening up "dark stores" — locations that look like supermarkets but are closed to customers — to make deliveries and prepare pickup orders.”
But of course, the demand for online groceries has skyrocketed in the past month.
“Grocery retailers are saying, 'How quickly can we open dark stores and automate as much as this as possible, before the virus gets worse?'" Brittain Ladd, a consultant to Kroger and other retailers, told The Washington Post. “This is unlike anything the industry has ever seen.”