E-commerce: “darkish retailers” spreading by way of the town are of concern to the authorities

The fast trade model has been gaining momentum in recent months, driven by a general increase in online shopping in French shopping habits, which is dangerously close to the 15 percent limit in retail, according to the latest estimates from the Federation. e-commerce and distance selling (Fevad).

Cajoo, Picnic, Gorillas, Getir, and even Flink are new players in this ultra-fast delivery market. They rely on warehouses of a new kind, commonly called “dark shops,” which are mostly old stores remodeled for storage, warehousing, and delivery preparation, with no public reception. Orders prepared on site are then entrusted to vendors, who can be employees or external service providers – some start-ups take pride in hiring employees on their teams.

However, the rapid spread of dark shops in cities is a cause for concern. With their facades often less aesthetic than traditional shop windows, they also take advantage of still vague regulations to play on the two statuses of warehouse and business.

Warehouse or shop?

In this situation, the government is trying to smooth over the rules a bit and is publishing a guide for local elected officials to clarify the rules that apply to fast trade in urban areas.

The government specifies that there are two types of dark activities, those that perform exclusively the activity of storage, in which case they must be considered warehouses, and those that simultaneously provide “drive” activity, and receive the status of trade. .

If, in the first case, the dark store that serves only as a warehouse is located in a former supermarket, then it must “change the destination of the store to comply with regulations,” the guide said. For dark stores that would also operate, the government, on the other hand, encourages them to “open spaces to welcome the public, if necessary in a reduced area at the counter withdrew orders”, in order to “better fit into the urban fabric and reduce concerns about the location of dark shops (less traffic on the streets, unattractive shop windows) “, he explains.

Giving priority to a dense network at the expense of location

The government also specifies that certain cities such as Paris remain temporarily subject to provisions that were in force before the 2014 Alur Act because they had to adopt a new local urban plan (PLU). In this case, the guide advises you to contact the PLU in force in these cities to find out whether “establishing a dark store requires special administrative procedures”.

Finally, the Government recommends that municipalities consult with economic actors in the sector on their obligations and “organize a transition period for those of them who should comply with regulations.”

In Paris alone, a recent study by the Atelier parisien d’urbanisme (Apur) shows that there are almost 60 dark shops and at least 30 dark kitchens in early 2022. This phenomenon also tends to increase with the arrival of large distribution players. Carrefour and Casino, which are subject to strong competition in terms of home delivery, have decided to react in particular during the health crisis by linking partnerships with Uber Eats and Deliveroo, as well as with players in the new fast trade sector.

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