Dark stores, the emerging supermarkets of tomorrow

10% of French people currently do their shopping online, a trend that continues to grow, especially since the health crisis. If the drive-through concept is now in vogue, other solutions are gradually emerging, including dark stores. Under this name, which can legitimately be frightening, hides in reality a service which goes even further than the drive-through and which allows the customers, after the selection of their products on the Internet, to be delivered very quickly. In these dark stores, you will not meet any customers despite their similarities with a classic supermarket. It is not a supermarket as such, but a warehouse where the goods available on the merchant’s application are stored. 

The products are then chosen by the customers, like the principle of the drive-through, except that they will not have to go to pick up their shopping. The only people with access to the premises are the employees in charge of orders. So far, the innovation may seem rather basic, but if these dark stores are not accessible to customers, it is because they offer an additional service that is not negligible: delivery. And the least we can say is that it is fast, since the promise of the concept is to deliver customers in less than an hour, or even less than 15 minutes for the most ambitious. 

The products are collected by the company’s employees, called pickers, a position similar to that of the order pickers in the drive-through. The latter have, most of the time, about 4 minutes to prepare the order. Once the order is ready, another actor comes into play: the rider, or more commonly called courier. In order to avoid traffic, often congested in the city centers, dark stores have equipped their couriers with cargo bikes, an efficient solution that ensures fast delivery, within the time promised by the dark store. Dark stores are usually located on the outskirts of major cities, or in some cases within the cities themselves, to ensure quick delivery to customers. The principle of the dark stores is similar to that of the dark kitchens used in the field of home delivery of meals.

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