It seems like the pandemic-related dark store trend in the United States is going to stick.
Whole Foods Market announced Wednesday it has opened its first, permanent online-only location in Brooklyn, New York.
"This new delivery-only retail model will allow Whole Foods Market to serve even more customers and continue to meet the growing demand for grocery delivery," the company said in a blog post. The store will serve customers only in the Brooklyn area.
News of the new format comes after Whole Foods converted at least six stores earlier this year to help meet COVID-19 demand. Four of the six stores have since converted back.
The company says the planning for the dark store format began more than a year ago as Amazon and Whole Foods Market worked closely together to make this new online-only store a reality.
Earlier this week Amazon’s Prime Air received approval from the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, a vital step in the e-commerce operator’s plan to operate a drone package-delivery service.
No. 2 on The PG 100, Progressive Grocer’s 2020 list of the top food and consumables retailers in North America, Amazon is also planning grocery stores in the Los Angeles and Philadelphia markets, according to media reports. Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods is No. 24 on PG's list.
Whole Foods says it hired hundreds of new team members to work in the store, including hiring from within the company. The store will be fully staffed by Whole Foods Market Team Members who are dedicated to facilitating grocery delivery—enabling them to quickly receive, shop and prepare orders for delivery to more customers than ever before.
"Grocery delivery continues to be one of the fastest-growing businesses at Amazon," the blog post said. "In fact, online grocery sales tripled year over year in the second quarter this year, indicating that more customers than ever before are turning to Amazon for grocery delivery options. Together, we're thrilled to increase access to grocery delivery. It’s never been more important.
The new Brooklyn store is different from Whole Foods temporary online-only stores, which were converted to help meet COVID-19 demand. Four of the six stores have since converted back.
Last week Amazon opened its new Fresh concept in the Los Angeles suburb of Woodland Hills with plenty of dedicated space for e-commerce as well as Alexa stations and smart carts that enable cashierless checkout.