Woolworths dark store
Woolworths first ‘dark store’ will be built on the outskirts of Brisbane. Photo – Woolworths.
  • New site set to provide ongoing employment to around 300 Queenslanders from 2022
  • Building works to provide around 200 jobs during construction
  • Facility to service 260 Queensland and northern NSW stores

The Australian supermarket and grocery chain Woolworths is responding to the pandemic boom for online shopping by developing new distribution centres, including its first of several “dark stores”.

Sometimes referred to as the “future of post-pandemic retail”, dark stores are local fulfilment centres set up to service online delivery only.

A similar trend is already happening with “dark restaurants” cropping up in industrial centres serving online food delivery businesses such as Uber Eats, Menulog and Deliveroo.

Its first dark store – a 10,000 square metre warehouse officially known as a ‘Customer Fulfilment Centre’ – will be built in Rochedale, about half an hours’ drive south-east of Brisbane CBD.

The new facility will handle orders from across Brisbane. Both Amazon and Coles have announced similar automated warehouses in the area.

Woolworths’ online sales grew by 92 per cent between July and December last year.

More Centres

Meanwhile, Woolworth Group’s supply chain arm – Primary Connect – has also commenced building works on its new Heathwood Distribution Centre (DC) in southeast Queensland.

The 42,000 sqm temperature-controlled facility – equivalent to more than three times the size of the Suncorp Stadium – will be able to fulfil deliveries of around 4,000 frozen and chilled products to more than 260 stores across Queensland and northern New South Wales.

The DC is set to open in the first half of 2022 and will be co-located with Woolworths’ meat supplier Hilton Foods Australia’s production facility. This will help take up to 390 truck movements off Brisbane roads each week by consolidating delivery loads to stores.

“We’re proud to be investing in our Queensland supply chain network for the benefit of our customers and store teams,” said Primary Connect General Manager for Queensland Dale Acton.

“This development will help us deliver better service and fresher food to our stores, take trucks off Brisbane’s roads, and create exciting new career opportunities for Queenslanders.

“Over the next five years, we plan to inject a total of $500 million into the Queensland economy across our store network and supply chain, e-commerce and shopping centre developments – creating more than 5,000 new jobs.”

The DC is being built by Vaughan Constructions and will create around 200 Queensland jobs throughout construction.

“In these uncertain times, we need major job-creating projects that will create certainty in job opportunities and economic growth,” Lord Mayor of Brisbane Adrian Schrinner said.

“That’s what the Heathwood Distribution Centre will bring to Brisbane by securing around 200 jobs during construction and sustaining around 300 jobs after.

“Working alongside Hilton Foods Australia, this new facility will help boost consumer confidence while positioning Brisbane as the hub for a local, reliable food supply chain for Queensland.”

The $184m investment in the Heathwood DC is majority funded by LOGOS (property development costs of $148m), with Woolworths signing an initial 15-year lease on the site.

In October 2020, Woolworths unveiled a $12m upgrade of its Townsville Regional DC – more than doubling its original footprint. It also operates the 92,000 sqm Brisbane Regional Distribution Centre at Larapinta to sort and deliver fresh and ambient goods to stores across the state.

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