Sainsbury’s Ramps Up Online Operations With Opening Of First Purpose-Built Fulfilment Centre

Sainsbury’s has opened its first dedicated online fulfilment centre to cope with soaring demand in London.

The 185,000 sq. ft site, sometimes referred to as a ‘dark store’, is located in Bromley-by-Bow, East London. It is laid out in aisles, like an enormous supermarket, and has the capacity to fulfil 25,000 customer orders per week. The chilled picking area alone is ten times the size of an average Sainsbury’s convenience store. Once Sainsbury’s staff have picked orders from the shelves they are transferred to a giant automated system, described as a first of its kind in the UK. The automated system operates 1.5km of conveyor belts which can carry over 7,000 crates per hour to Sainsbury’s delivery vans.

The site also has its own bakery, along with its own fuel pumps and van servicing area for its 160-strong fleet.

Sainsbury’s online grocery business saw sales grow 9% last year with orders up 15%. It is predicting that demand in the capital will double over the next eight years, as more people switch to a mixture of shopping online and in stores.

Nearly 500 people have already been recruited to work at the centre and Sainsbury’s expects to recruit another 430 staff by 2020.


Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s Director of Online commented: “Operating day and night, this state-of-the-art centre, with its cutting edge technology will enable us to handle exceptional volumes at high speed.

“The additional capacity provided by the centre means that, working with our 30 London stores which pick online orders, we’ll be able to keep up with demand for our service in London, which we expect to double over the next eight years.”

NAM Implications:
  • Where at: Given that Amazon have made time and 100% availability the key online differentiators, Sainsbury’s are in a position to comply 100%, in what is the most concentrated online market in the UK
  • Where headed: Fulfilment (speed & availability) in the London area will become a key online driver
  • How it affects you: This zero-defect criterion will challenge any systems that are less than perfect
  • Action: Set this standard for your business in the London area, and apply as much as possible elsewhere