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Online Shopping Is Reshaping Real-world Cities

Dark stores are designed to make delivery processes smoother

Walk down a major street in Manhattan or Brooklyn today, and—wedged between a coffee shop and a FedEx shipping center—you might stumble across a storefront that looks, for all intents and purposes, empty. It probably has frosted glass windows, a door covered in branded stickers or QR codes, a bike rack out front and a collapsible sign that directs you to download its mobile app to receive grocery deliveries in 10 to 15 minutes. Though employees might be racing in and out, customers aren’t allowed inside.

These ghost storefronts—often called dark stores"—are warehouses in all but name, yet they look markedly different from the gargantuan spaces where older online grocery companies like FreshDirect store their goods. Traditional warehouses are zoned to regions outside of commercial districts, meaning they will be set apart from areas with lots of walking traffic. Dark stores are located in retail storefronts on main streets, near the heart of busy neighborhoods, but they serve only ecommerce customers. And they’ve gone from a niche phenomenon discussed largely in retail industry circles to a feature of major American cities.

The rise of dark stores directly parallels the acceleration of ecommerce as a whole, especially in the grocery industry. Online sales represented 13 percent of all grocery spending in 2021, a new high, and dark stores are designed to make the delivery process smoother.

Please select this link to read the complete article from WIRED.

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