A supermarket without a customer in sight? Countdown to open NZ's first 'dark store' in April 2020

A supermarket without a customer in sight?  
Countdown to open New Zealand’s first 'dark store' in April to service growing demand for online shopping

It will look just like a regular supermarket, with fruit and veges, meat and freshly baked bread, but there’ll be one thing missing inside Countdown’s newest Auckland store - the customers.

Online home delivery orders from 10 of Countdown’s Auckland stores will move to the new eStore (otherwise known as a 'dark store'), which will have 27,000 products on the shelves and a team of 165 personal shoppers dedicated to serving thousands of online delivery customers.  Online orders for Pick Up will remain at customers’ local supermarkets for collection in-store.

The new dedicated online eStore in Penrose, Auckland, will also introduce partially automated micro fulfillment capabilities in partnership with Takeoff Technologies.  This moves products closer to Countdown’s team of personal shoppers, saving team members from walking up and down the aisles to locate products.

Sally Copland, Countdown’s General Manager Digital, says customer expectations are changing at pace, with more and more people turning to Countdown online shopping every week.

“At Countdown we’ve seen massive demand for our online shopping services over the last few years - in the last quarter alone we’ve had 38 per cent growth.  The new eStore will enable us to improve our customer experience for online shoppers as well as free-up space in-store and improve the experience for our team.

“It will also allow us to really accelerate the speed at which we can make online orders available for our customers, with more same-day ordering and delivery windows.  That’s what today’s online shoppers are telling us they need,” says Sally Copland.

Takeoff Technologies is an eGrocery startup, based in Boston, USA, that builds compact, automated micro fulfillment centres. Using a store’s existing footprint to improve online operations, the automation minimises the space required by using innovative technology that functions in compact vertical spaces.

“We see the future of grocery shopping as a mix of services that are fundamentally focused on meeting our customers’ needs and expectations, and importantly, their lifestyle,” says Sally Copland.

“Whether that’s a dedicated online eStore to service customer demand for ultra-convenient deliveries, free Pick Up nationwide*, and a network of stores that is localised to where our customers live and work, we don’t see the growth in online shopping slowing down.”

Countdown’s Penrose eStore is expected to employ 165 online personal shoppers and support team, across a mix of full-time and part-time roles.  The company isn’t anticipating any redundancies or job loss as a result of the change given the rapid growth in online and demand for Pick Up orders as well.

The company will evaluate how well the technology works for customers and team before making decisions on further roll-out.


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