Sainsbury is to follow Tesco by opening its first 185,000 sq ft “dark store” to service online customers.
The store at Bromley-by-Bow, East London is expected to open by 2015.
The move represents an abrupt change of policy for Sainsbury. Until now the grocery business has used traditional stores to serve online customers. The decision followed a pioneer strategy for specialist online warehousing in the early days of online grocery, which Sainsbury subsequently abandoned.
In contrast Tesco’s strategy was to open “dark stores” - supermarkets closed to the public designed to allow staff to pick for online customers. Now Sainsbury is to follow suit.
Sainsbury is facing testing times, recovering from last year’s fall in pre-tax profits to report second quarter like-for-like sales lifting by 2.1% and total sales up 4.4% in the first half of the year, thanks in part to online sales.
In July, Sainsbury backed away from plans to build a 528,000 sq ft distribution centre close to Exeter airport. It said it had “no immediate requirement” for the development on a 29-acre site, which had been planned since 2010.