Will dark supermarkets bring new light to industrial precincts?


In August,

Woolworths opened its first Dark Supermarket in Australia – a 7,000 square metre dedicated internet distribution centre in Mascot, Sydney, and is now considering opening in Brisbane and Melbourne.

It’s larger than an average Woolworths supermarket, and has added dock space to allow the operation of multiple delivery trucks.

According to JLL Industrial Director Gary Hyland the opening of this first Dark Supermarket is the beginning of a new trend which will affect the industrial sector.

“Dark Supermarkets are a sign that the way consumers consume has changed, and continues to change. The online grocery buying phenomenon is here, and it’s here to stay.

"As a result, we will see Dark Supermarkets take up space in industrial precincts – particularly in warehouses close to key markets,” he said.

“This new type of use for traditional industrial sector property is exciting, and represents a potential new era.”

The typical Dark Supermarket looks like a normal supermarket – a large warehouse space packed with products of all types, shapes and perishability. But there’s no customers.

Online orders are fulfilled fast and effectively by pickers or “personal shoppers” who can work day or night shifts, and have open run of the aisles without having to navigate checkout queues or in-store ‘noise’.

It means order deliveries happen quickly, whether they be Dark Shelf to the Door (delivery serviced buying) or the Click and Collect option (where consumers collect themselves).

Mr Hyland said while online food and liquor buying still lagged well behind apparel and consumer electronics, it is growing, and fast.

“This gap between online retail sectors is closing – online food shopping has the momentum. Given population figures, and the propensity Australians have for online shopping (being one of the world’s leading online shopping markets) we see Dark Supermarkets as rolling out nationally over the next few years and this has a significant flow-on to the industrial sector," he said.

“According to data, Woolworths’ online grocery shopping app has been downloaded more than 3 million times and it has 4 million unique visitors to its site each month, making it the most-visited online food and liquor site in Australia.

"This is a huge flag to fly for the future of online grocery shopping in this country.”

Tesco dark supermarket

Tesco dark supermarket[/caption]
The UK Experience: Tesco, Asda and Waitrose to double their dark space
In January this year it was reported that supermarkets were cutting back on megastores, but because of the rise and rise in online food shopping, were set to sign up for twice as much online warehouse space.

The major UK supermarkets – including Tesco, Asda and Waitrose – will this year commit to doubling the space devoted to Dark Supermarkets. Around 1.67 million square metres of warehouse space is devoted to darks, but that is set to increase as online shopping transforms the retail sector.

Jon Neale, UK head of research for JLL

, said the increase in demand for sites was not only driven by more people buying online but by the concentration of shoppers in particular areas.

“Retailers are being forced to open Dark Supermarkets because delivering to thousands of homes demands a completely different operation to transporting bulky loads to a few hundred stores.

"The growth of internet shopping is about the changing nature of demand. It is more pronounced among certain demographics and is not distributed evenly across the country," he said.

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