… America's top grocers are building mini-warehouses and "dark stores…



Grocers Go 'Dark'


By Victoria Campisi, The Food Institute

NOV 1, 2019


To better meet demand for growing online sales, America's top grocers are building mini-warehouses and "dark stores," reported CNN (Oct. 31).


Similar to what are known as "ghost kitchens" in foodservice, these locations are closed to customers, only used to make deliveries and prepare pickup orders. Walmart, Albertsons, Stop & Shop, Meijer and Hy-Vee are among companies building such locations, which look like traditional supermarkets.


Over half of food retailers manage digital commerce and fulfillment internally while 42% outsource the entire process to third-party vendor, a Food Marketing Institute report found.


Walmart trained over 30,000 workers to fulfill online orders. However, this sometimes led to congested aisles with workers in stores during peak shopping hours.


For the 42% that partner with third-party services, there are often "as many people selecting for Instacart as there are customers," according to Bill Bishop, co-founder of Brick Meets Click.


Using workers to manually pick, bag and deliver orders is expensive for grocers, on top of already tight grocery margins, causing them to turn to technology to reduce costs and clear up the aisles.


Albertson's and Stop & Shop are testing automated "micro-fulfillment centers" in their own stores that are dedicated to fulfilling deliveries and pickups. Albertson's is even using robots at two stores to prepare customers' orders.


Meijer revealed it would also begin testing micro-fulfillment with logistics company Demantic. "This micro-fulfillment technology will allow us to maximize space in our stores, help us expand our online shopping options and ultimately keep pace with consumer demand for personalized shopping solutions that puts their shopping preferences first," said Sid Handa, director of strategic supply chain initiatives for Meijer.


Meanwhile, Walmart is piloting a system...


Iowa-based Hy-Vee is testing...


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