Whole Foods opened a store that you can’t walk into or shop at. Fast Company reports about it. The store is located in Brooklyn and dedicated to fulfilling online orders. It’s Whole Foods’ first purpose-built online-only store. Though six of its stores were temporarily converted to handle only online orders, this new dedicated online-only store had been in the works for more than a year. This is not just a Covid-19 pandemic-related reaction.
More retailers are accommodating the shift of shopping from in-store to online by turning their physical locations into so-called ‘dark stores’. These are miniature warehouse where online orders can be packed for pickup or delivery. Retail experts say this is the start of a major trend.
Grocery chains such as Ahold Delhaize Stop & Shop and Hy-Vee are already experimenting with turning stores dark. Other retailers are converting stores into micro fulfillment centers. Some shopping malls are also being converted into fulfillment centers. The catalyst for this change is robotics. Even without the social distancing rules of the Covid-19 pandemic, the typical grocery store can handle only so many customers.
Warehouse technology startups are already beginning to work with retailers and grocers on integrating robotics and adding more product into smaller, robot-only spaces.