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To the dark side

Is this what supermarkets will soon look like?

Delivery Operations At Tesco Plc's New On-Line Distribution Center Ahead Of Christmas

Sparse, frosty, aloof? Sure, but this store isn’t for ambience.

It’s a “dark store” run by Tesco in Erith, England. Its sole purpose is to fulfil online orders.

No customer ever walks in, only employees picking products to be delivered to customers’ homes.

Ten dark stores are now open in the U.K., according to IGD analyst Nick Miles. Others can be found in France and Germany. Dark stores offer tasty advantages for e-commerce–minded grocers.

At up to 200,000 sq. ft., dark stores can carry the kind of broad, on-demand selection that online shoppers expect. Stock rotation can be easier and automation cuts operational costs. Dark stores don’t offer personalized services now, but that could change.

As Miles notes in a recent report, “Shining a Light on Dark Stores,” the British grocery chain Morrisons aims to put “dark kitchens” with “virtual butchers and fishmongers” into its dark store.

“This,” he writes, “will mean that customers will be able to order exact cuts of meat and have fish prepared precisely to their requirements.” The future for dark stores could be brightening.

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