– Published on
March 23, 2022

Let’s shine a light on dark stores

Dark stores. The name has a gloomy ring to it. The fact that they boomed during the pandemic also set the dystopian tone. Dark stores are older than the pandemic though. As early as 2009, Tesco opened their first one, later Walmart, Whole Foods and other big food retailers followed.

So what is it? It’s a store with no customers, the goods are only available through online shopping. They are often located in cities at normal store locations if they are smaller. If they are bigger there are often warehouses outside of cities. In many cases they look just like a normal self-service store but are closed to the public.

Many countries have been in different degrees of lockdowns during the pandemic, and a quick adaptation to the new world was necessary for many stores to survive. The social distancing created a massive demand for contact-free shopping, instant home and curbside deliveries. A lot of existing physical stores were quick to adapt a more omnichannel strategy, but it also meant a whole new market for new players on the field.

Running a dark store means different challenges than your normal store

Always deliver fresh food

You need to be super efficient to minimise the time from the store fridge to the delivery. The dark store customers are also more likely to not want products that’s soon to expire, especially if they haven’t chosen it themselves.

Fast and flexible deliveries

Customers demand quick deliveries at odd hours and if you don’t supply it you will get old quick. At our office we sometimes use services such as these, and they blow our mind. 6 minutes after ordering, the doorbell rings. Imagine the competition in this field.

Proper forecasting

This is a challenge in all kinds of retail, but to keep up with customers demands, dark stores need advanced forecasting. On one hand, to make sure they have what people want and need. On the other hand they have less possibilities to mark down products soon to expire, and also find other use for products, like upcycling. Traditional grocery stores have far more ways to keep their food waste down.

The evolution of this concept was pushed forward by the pandemic, making it more likely that dark stores are here to stay, and keep evolving. The challenge of getting people to break habits was, because of Covid-19, pretty much eliminated. Suddenly a lot of people had no choice but to change their behaviour, whether they liked it or not. Like other parts of retail, the conventional brick and mortar establishments has to adapt to the new playfield and find ways to elevate the irl shopping experience to keep the costumers. It'll be interesting to see how this will unfold 👀🍿.

Fia Sjöström
Content Creator & Marketing specialist

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