Dark stores

Author of the article: REAL GAME partner, commercial real estate consultant Ernestas Adomaitis.

What will the shopping of the future look like? It just won’t be there.

Imagine, for a free minute, in a traffic jam, you choose a dish you like – poke with tuna, the contents of your fridge are known to the shopping app, which automatically adds the products you need to your shopping cart. Also, your car app records that the window fluid will run out after 1.8 days and your wedding anniversary tomorrow. What will the shopping cart app look like? Will a restaurant need to be reserved? Will you need to go shopping yourself? Sensory shopping is likely to survive only in major supermarkets, and everything else will be purchased without any contact. Will I need to travel to the store? Certainly not, because your goods will be placed either in the house, in the hallway, or in separate compartments in the personal post office next to your apartment or house, which is equipped with a refrigeration function. Will you choose the right goods yourself? Not at all – because on your phone or other devices, these items will be selected by the computer ‘s artificial intelligence, which combines multiple home, transport, entertainment, etc. facilities.

The process will look like this:

  • shopping carts for consumers will be automated according to calorie intake, habits, favorite dishes, doctor’s recommendations, car parameters, etc. t .;
  • The “big” algorithm will collect data from all users and different suppliers will receive orders.
  • In cities, manufacturers will rent places in “dark shops” (note this) to which they will deliver the required quantities of goods ordered according to the general “big data” algorithm.
  • in warehouses, according to human orders, robots or humans will select the goods and deliver them to couriers;
  • couriers will deliver the goods home to people’s orders;
  • the stores will transform and start offering only “order and pick up” or direct delivery.

Sounds like science fiction? 30 years ago the map was a mandatory attribute in the car, without GPS everyone traveled and could not have imagined otherwise. In the same way after 20 m. we will be surprised that people going to grocery stores to shop and look for themselves, loaded into carts and even impulsively bought completely unnecessary products. True, the impulsiveness will not disappear, the algorithm will definitely offer the “necessary” products, such as “Snickers” without sugar.

Let’s go back to the present and see how this will change the commercial real estate segment. The pandemic has put businesses on top: groceries, online shopping, parcels, food delivery and so on.

Businesses have started or are planning to create “dark shops”, which make up only 10-30%. the total area of the store where customers are served as a pick-up point. Such shops no longer need a first floor off the street, showcases, expensive signs, or a huge parking lot. These points may be in long-unoccupied areas in the background from the main streets, densely populated neighborhoods, or central business districts. Barbora works a little differently – people often select products in supermarkets, but that will change – there will be a need for a faster and more efficient process. Due to efficiency, the existing store infrastructure will no longer be suitable.

Most interestingly, the restaurants’ food delivery platforms are also starting to serve the customers of the “dark shops”. Imagine you open a grocery store website, order the goods you want, and the courier delivers the order to you at home in 30 minutes. from a nearby “dark shop”. The same will happen with electronics, offices, coffee, and even DIY.

Of course, even if you order goods online, you can go and pick them up at the agreed time. During a pandemic, such stores are the most effective way to fight infections: little contact with other shoppers and so on. But for the young user, it will be a daily routine, not a virus prevention.

We have recently seen contactless trade in fishing goods, contactless beer bars, so it is not surprising that food delivery couriers will soon start delivering a wide range of goods to their homes or offices. Without feeling it, we will see that we have not been in the store for another month.

Fear not, traditional shopping will not go away for a while and this transformation will take place gradually. 🙂 But it will inevitably happen.


Ernestas Adomaitis

Partner / Retail

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