As more and more customers turn to online grocery shopping and delivery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, some stores are turning brick and mortar locations into so-called “dark stores” in order to keep up with demand.
A dark store essentially means that a company’s physical location is closed to everyone except for those fulfilling orders for grocery delivery, according to The Motley Fool. The concept of a “dark store” is certainly not brand new, but it is gaining a lot of attention as people see limited open spots for grocery delivery and demand is sky high.
Amazon’s Vice President of Grocery Delivery Stephenie Landry announced this week that in addition to other changes, a Whole Foods in Woodland Hills, CA, would temporarily be opened as a dark store to help fulfill online orders. The chain has also closed a store in New York City’s Bryant Park area to consumers, according to Patch.
It’s not just Whole Foods making this change; grocers across the country (like Kroger, Stop & Shop, and Giant Eagle, to name a few) have all announced temporary or permanent “dark stores” in recent months in order to support growing demand for online delivery.
The appeal of dark stores, especially in times of social distancing, is fairly obvious: With stores dedicated to online grocery shopping and the delivery workers fulfilling these orders, in theory, the spaces should be less crowded, better stocked, and more able to allow shoppers to spread out rather than shopping in a store filled with consumers—this seems to be a trend that will only grow from here.
“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.”