Coronavirus (COVID-19): Whole Foods turns its stores into ‘dark stores’

Wassim El Attar
Supply Chain Analyst

Date : 16 April 2020

Whole Foods, Amazon’s subsidiary, is turning its brick and mortar locations into ‘dark stores’, amid the extraordinary demand for online grocery.

Getting creative with the spaces available

“To focus on Prime grocery deliveries and help us fulfill more orders”, the grocer has temporarily closed its Manhattan Bryant Park store, located in central New York City, and repurposed it into a dark store, which can be used solely by employees to pick and pack online orders.

The move comes amid the rocketing demand for online grocery, as a result of the Coronavirus (covid-19) pandemic. Retailers globally are experiencing record sales through the channel, while extreme pressure is being put on their online fulfilment resources (for those who do so). This is encouraging them to become more creative with the way physical spaces are being used.

A Whole Foods spokesperson pointed to the possibility of other Manhattan locations being used in a way that meets the increasing demand for online shopping during the pandemic. The step makes sense since the stores are in the city centre, where demand for online grocery is highest.

Other examples

Similarly, Amazon’s grocery store in Woodland Hills, California, has been turned into a dark store. The dark store is used to fulfil orders for delivery and pickup from four nearby Whole Foods. Also, Kroger has recently converted one of its Cincinnati-area stores into a pick-up only location.

These initiatives can possibly be seen as a hint that investments in back-end grocery fulfilment might become a priority in the post-Coronavirus (COVID-19) world for established retailers, since more shoppers are now trying online grocery, and are more likely to decide to do so on a permanent basis.

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