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Supermarkets to double their 'dark' side

Date: January 08, 2014

Category: Industry news

Property company Jones Lang LaSalle (JJL) has said that three of the UK’s largest supermarkets will make strides towards doubling the area of their ‘dark stores’ during 2014.

‘Dark store’ is a term given to supermarket warehouses laid out in a similar way to traditional stores, but only accessible to staff. They allow employees to fulfil online orders by taking items from shelves in the same way as customers would if they were carrying out an in-store shopping run. Currently, hand-picking items from conventional stores is the way most e-shopping orders are completed by employees, but the ‘staff only’ stores allow them to stock more items and provide a quicker service.

At present, these stores encompass about 0.65 square miles in retail space, but this figure is expected to shoot up as retailers look to address the increasing shift towards online purchasing by gearing a greater proportion of their enterprise around the swift and accurate completion of internet orders.

Talking about what makes this style of warehouse a firm favourite of supermarkets, Verdict senior retail analyst Andy Stevens said:

"Dark stores really bring availability up and make internet shopping a more viable option for a lot more shoppers than when goods are picked in store."

Tesco is currently the supermarket with the largest ‘dark store’ presence, having opened its sixth in the latter part of last year. Sainsbury’s announced back in October that it was ready to make its first venture into the practice, and this month will see the launch of Morrisons and Ocado teaming up to form an online service – all of which suggests that the internet will be a key player in the grocery sector during 2014.