I love the latest developments in warehousing and due to the increase in online shopping; companies have developed huge distribution centres dedicated purely to picking online shopping orders. The leaders of this trend are supermarkets with online food shopping sales predicted to reach £14.6bn by 2018.
These are not open to the public and therefore are not located on the high street. They are however laid out very similarly to the public shops with bespoke features to aid picking processes and filled exclusively with staff. Depending on the size and purpose supermarkets for example have begun using robots to pick online orders. Laura Wade-Gery Tesco dotcom chief executive said to The Telegraph “Tesco currently have 6 ‘dark stores’ but aim to open 1 a year for the foreseeable future.” Tesco currently processes 475,000 orders online per week, 3.4 million visitors to the Tesco.com website and 2,000 vans delivering online orders.
I have found some huge efficiency and cost benefits to businesses operating through online dark stores including;
- 24/7 operation due to reduced opening hour restrictions enabling businesses to process more orders.
- Reduce the pressure on regular shops as online orders are being fulfilled elsewhere.
- Stock accuracy and availability is clearer as orders are processed before being sent out to be picked, unlike shops where numerous customers may have it in their trolley before paying for it.
- Route planning and various picking methods can be incorporated to ensure orders are picked quickly and efficiently.
- Cheaper to run as sites used for dark stores do not need to the same planning permission or be located on the high street where real estate prices are higher.
- Enables a business to have a high street presence and increase business exposure but focus on online sales.
- Still a retail environment so can benefit from using GS1 barcodes and will need to be compliant with EU1169/2011.
These benefits may also enable expansion as companies are able to offer a wider range of products which the shops were unable to stock due to restrictions on space and storage. It has been found that customers may increase the volume of their shopping as they do not have to carry their purchases, which in cities where people have to consider getting it home on public transport or foot would encourage people to buy more.
Dark stores and online shopping are rapidly adapting to customer needs in a profitable way, however this may change the way people shop and impact high streets with lower numbers of customers through the doors.
Can’t wait to see where this trend goes and how our warehouses will adapt to cope with greater demands!