Amazon to Convert More Whole Foods Locations Into 'Dark Stores'
Amazon.com is converting more of its Whole Foods locations into "dark stores," which are dedicated solely to fulfilling online orders. The move is part of an effort by Amazon to keep up with increased demand for groceries during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a FOX Business report. “With stay-at-home orders in place, customers have generated unprecedented demand for grocery delivery," a Whole Foods Market spokesperson told FOX. "As we navigate the challenges associated with COVID-19, we continue to find ways to increase delivery availability while navigating safety measures and social distancing.” To date, Amazon has converted six Whole Food locations into dark stores, including locations in New York City, Chicago, San Francisco, Baltimore, Austin, and Castle Rock, CO. According to the company spokesperson, the online-only conversions are temporary.
Total Retail's Take: Whole Foods is not the only grocery chain closing stores to the public to focus on delivery and pickup orders. Kroger, Stop & Shop, and HyVee have all recently closed stores to the public in an effort to focus on delivery and pickup orders as demand for online grocery services surges amid the pandemic. Dark stores make it easier and quicker to fulfill online orders since grocery staff can focus solely on these orders instead of working cash registers or helping in-store customers. The tactic also reduces grocery store employees' exposure to COVID-19, since it reduces the number of people entering the store, and therefore reduces overall exposures to employees. With fewer people overall in stores, employees have more space to socially distance while filling orders. The growth of online grocery has been one of the biggest consumer shifts during the coronavirus pandemic, necessitating dark stores. It will be interesting to see if we continue to see an upswing in online grocery shopping post-pandemic, or if consumers return to shopping in grocery stores.