Tesco To Build More Customer-Free "Stores" For Web-Order Fulfillment

Buying items on Tesco.com, the E-Commerce site of the $84 billion, U.K.-based supermarket chain, is a bit like being a virtual marionette operator. When a Web shopper places an order, Tesco employees actually grab shopping carts and pluck items from shelves as they stroll up and down aisles in Tesco stores. Most of those online order fulfillment missions are currently conducted in busy, public Tesco markets also occupied by meandering shoppers. But Tesco is so pleased with its use of customer-free "dot-com store" installations--facilities nearly identical to its regular markets, except that are for use only by Tesco.com order-fillers--the chain plans to erect a large network of them, according to the Daily Telegraph of London.

It said Tesco now has two so-called "dark stores" up and running, one in Surrey and another in Kent, and plans to open a third, next year, in Middlesex. Laura Wade-Gery, Tesco.com CEO was reported as saying the company intends to open one new online order fulfillment store yearly "for the foreseeable future" and expects the employee-only structures will be handling 15 percent of online order fulfillment by 2014. Tesco currently processes 475,000 online orders weekly and operates a 2,000-van fleet for home deliveries, said the Telegraph.