Whole Foods Market has opened its first online-only store, located in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.
Parent company Amazon said the so-called “dark store,” which went into operation yesterday, will fulfill delivery orders only and help Whole Foods better meet rising customer demand for grocery delivery service. The brand-new facility, situated in the borough’s Industry City neighborhood, will serve customers in the Brooklyn area exclusively.
Austin, Texas-based Whole Foods hired hundreds of new workers to run the store, including people from within the company. Associates are “100% dedicated” to facilitating grocery delivery, enabling them to quickly receive, shop and prepare orders for delivery to a greater number of customers, Amazon said.
Planning for the new store format started more than a year ago, according to Amazon, which said it worked closely with Whole Foods to develop the concept.
The online-only store comes as Amazon/Whole Foods continues to see a booming online grocery business amid the coronavirus pandemic. For the second quarter ended June 30, online grocery sales tripled versus a year ago, Amazon reported. That has led the Seattle-based e-tail giant to boost its grocery delivery capacity by more than 160% and triple its number of grocery pickup sites.
Amazon also has been working with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to expand access to online grocery shopping for recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, also known as food stamps. Amazon said it now reaches beneficiaries in 39 states and the District of Columbia, enabling more than 90% of SNAP households to use their SNAP benefits online.
Overall, Amazon provides free two-hour grocery delivery in more than 2,000 U.S. cities and towns through its Prime customer benefits program, which also includes exclusive discounts on selected popular products weekly and another 10% off hundreds of in-store sale items. That includes online service through the 487 Whole Foods stores nationwide.
In Retail Feedback Group’s 2020 U.S. Online & In-Store Grocery Shopping Study, Amazon led all other players in customer satisfaction among online grocery shoppers, scoring 4.47 on a scale of 1 to 5, just ahead of Walmart at 4.38. Amazon posted the highest score in virtually areas of online grocery customer satisfaction, such as in-stocks, pickup and delivery service and time windows, easy navigation to desired products, a smooth website/app performance and checkout process, and easy-to-find and -apply discounts, among other areas.