Whole Foods Market has opened its first online-only dark store in Brooklyn, N.Y. The delivery-only model will help Whole Foods keep up with digital demand in a major market at a time when grocery delivery is reaching unprecedented levels: Amazon saw its grocery sales triple during Q2 2020.
Planning for the new store format, which is a collaboration between Whole Foods and its parent company Amazon, began nearly a year ago. The location is staffed by hundreds of workers who are dedicated to facilitating the delivery process, helping the dark store quickly receive, shop and prepare orders.
The COVID-19 crisis had made the dark store model more attractive than ever. Not only can they reduce last mile costs by moving delivery centers closer to shoppers, but the lack of in-store customers makes them safer for workers and even cuts down on out-of-stocks, according to Chris Walton, CEO of Omni Talk and Third Haus in an interview with Retail TouchPoints.
“You have a lot of unknowns happening with COVID,” said Walton. “Who’s coming in? How often? Are they pantry loading? Are they not? That creates a lot of inventory variability even before you try to predict online orders, which are also highly variable right now. Being able to close off one location and only ship from there actually makes a lot of sense at this point.”
DoorDash has opened its own dark stores in eight cities through DashMart, which are online-only convenience stores that carry approximately 2,000 products. The items available include a combination of staples like snacks, groceries, over-the-counter medicines and pet food, along with “fan favorites” from local and national restaurant chains.