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France clamps down on “dark stores”

One way to shop for things is to make a list of all the things you want and/or need, and then go to a location that sells as many of those things as possible. As I understand, this is more or less what people do when they go to a place like Costco.

Another way to shop is to just order things piecemeal, and have them delivered to you when you want them and in the least amount of time possible. And it turns out that this latter option is pretty popular.

It is popular because it involves (1) not going anywhere and (2) not having to make a list and think proactively about the things you may want and/or need in the future. But it does mean that we need specific infrastructure to support this method of consumption. Generally speaking you need urban spaces close to where people live and work, and you need people to transport the goods.

I mention all of this because it has translated into two areas of concern within our cities: (1) we now have “dark spaces” that are embedded into urban areas but don’t have any public-facing components and (2) we now have throngs of delivery vehicles starting to annoy local communities.

In fact, France has already responded with a new federal policy that is expected to reclassify “dark stores and “ghost kitchens” as warehouses. This is intended to give local municipalities the power to shutter these sorts of spaces. Part of the thinking is that we all did just fine before delivery apps, so why not just go back to doing what we were doing?

My own view is that this shift in consumption is here to stay. And so we would be better served by figuring out how to respond in a way that is both sensitive to communities and that maintains the vibrancy of our urban environments. We also managed without things like refrigerated food and mobile phones, but I’m pretty happy to have these tools available to me.

1 Comment so far

  1. daniel b

    If we currently had the delivery model as default, and someone proposed the in-store shopping model, i’m convinced many cities would ban it. The GHG emissions of operating all that retail floor area. The consumerism of impulse purchases made while shopping in store. Retail uses crowding out valuable urban space that could be used for housing, all the delivery drivers who would be put out of work…


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