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For several years, the Scottish Grocers’ Federation [SGF] has managed a Scottish Parliament cross-party group on independent convenience stores.

Cross-party groups operate in a very similar way to all-party parliamentary groups at Westminster.

The group has proved to be a highly effective platform for bringing retail industry issues directly into parliament.

Our most recent meeting looked at the future of retail in the post-pandemic landscape.

One issue that was discussed repeatedly was the emergence of so-called ‘dark stores’.

Dark stores have appeared to exploit the big move towards online shopping that was one of the defining characteristics of lockdown.

As with every modern phenomenon, particularly if there is a digital aspect to it, dark stores have their own language. They have been described as ‘micro-fulfilment centres’, expanding the move toward omni-channel retailing, catering to the increased consumer desire – particularly from millennials – for rapid, on-demand order fulfilment.

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It was clear from our discussion there needed to be a debate about the challenges and opportunities these kinds of stores present to convenience retailing. Do these stores have an unfair competitive advantage? Could they prevent c-stores from fully developing their own online offerings?

Earlier this year, Rotterdam and Amsterdam introduced a one-year ‘freeze’ on the development of new dark stores due to complaints from residents about reckless riders, noise and congestion.

We are not aware of any dark stores operating in Scotland, but it seems only a matter of time until they move north.

In the meantime, we would be more than happy to hear the views of any colleagues based down south about their experiences.

Click here to contact the SGF

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