Dark Store – store or storage?
As a result of the pandemic, the e-commerce market is developing dynamically. The demand for warehouse space is constantly growing, especially in the area of last mile warehouses. From the customer's point of view, modern commerce has to be easily accessible, convenient and fast. This is where the warehouse space market welcomes the idea of dark stores.
Dark store is a mini distribution center that works almost like traditional store. The dark store is organized like a large supermarket, allowing you to buy everyday goods - from groceries to chemicals and small electronics. The dark store is distinguished by one thing - no buyers. Purchases are made online, through dedicated applications, completed by store employees and delivered to the customer's door within 10-15 minutes.
The idea of dark stores appeared in France for over 20 years, but only in the last two years, as a result of a pandemic and the introduction of lockdowns, has it been intensively developed. In response to the rapid increase in online sales, the e-grocery industry has taken steps to meet the expectations of customers - to provide a wide range of goods, including fresh food products, bringing the delivery time closer to that actually spent shopping in the store.
So what distinguishes a dark store from small business unit warehouses available on the market? The recipient is primarily a retail customer. The store's assortment is selected according to his needs, and the location of the warehouse space allows for quick and effective delivery. In practice, this means that traditional large-scale last mile warehouses for the e-commerce industry are supplemented by a network of smaller spaces within city limits. In agglomeration centers, the network of warehouse facilities is constantly densified in order to deliver goods to the customer as quickly as possible, where parcel lockers and dark store spaces are the last link.
Currently, in addition to Carrefour, which has been offering online shopping services for years, the dark store are also successfully operated by the Glovo, Lisek, Jokr and Swift chains on the Polish market. In recent months, Biedronka has joined with a dedicated brand Biedronka Express BIEK, and the Żabka chain of stores is currently testing the first three points in Warsaw. As you can see, dark stores definitely enter the urban space, gradually blurring the differences and combining the functions of warehouse space with utility space.