How Grocery Retailers are Designing Cold Storage for Curbside Pickup

With COVID19 and the rapidly changing buying habits of consumers, grocery retailers are increasingly offering services for curbside pickup and delivery. A common challenge for the existing grocery retail brick and mortar facilities is how to repurpose facilities that were not designed for curbside pickup or delivery as what is becoming business essential.
The common constraints for curbside pickup are space and customer flow.

Space: Freeing up retail floor space for additional merchandise. Having sold merchandise taking up retail space, preventing sales opportunities.

Customer Flow: Provide the most convenient and safest method for customers to pick up groceries and non-perishables.

Options with Pro’s/Cons:

  1. Leverage Existing Back of House Walk-In Cooler/Freezer to Store Orders
    • Minimal or no investment short term fix to provide a stop gap
    • High overhead and inefficient order flow for customer wait time, and labor
  2. Self-Contained Reach-In’s at Front of House:
    • Convenient storage at front of store for ease of pick-up
    • Too large of a retail floor space usage. Requires multiple electrical connections and heat inside enclosure
  3. Custom Reach-In Walk-in’s at Front of House with Glass Doors
    •  ~30% more cold storage per retail floor sq. footage
    • Custom product so less flexibility for change
  4. One-Piece Outdoor Walk-In
    • No impact to in-store retail space. Existing locations were well equipped to handle 20’x10’x8’ outdoors. Optimal customer flow with outdoor storage. Single point electrical connection vs. i.e. 3 for reach-in’s. Arrives pre-built for <2-hour install for minimal/no impact to operations.
    • Cost is ~30% more vs. reach-in’s proposal
  5. Build out Curbside Receiving Area
    • Most optimal for customer flow, with highest capacity for orders. Incorporates pass through from store to receiving area for store within a store
    • More than 500% the cost of self-contained storage. Limited viability depending upon store design and parking
  6. “Dark Store” Concept
    • Most optimal for delivery only applications with minimized in store overhead. Increasing use of automated picking to reduce overhead further.
    • Limited to delivery only applications.

Case Study Example:
A 200 store Mid-Atlantic based grocery retailer with an average store size of 50,000 sf, but ranging from 8,000 to 71,000sf. The solution this retailer selected was the one-piece box by ICS to optimize space, customer flow, utilize cost-savings. This retailer worked with International Cold Store (ICS) by Everidge Inc. to customize this one-piece box with custom shelving, sizing, and vinyl wrapping. As a result, the retailer leveraged their curbside cold storage solution as a promotional tool to drive customer engagement.

Shown below is the early prototype. The 3-door box provides storage for dry goods, cooler, and freezer. The box arrived pre-assembled with refrigeration and required a single trade (electrician) to install. The box was operational within 2-hours of delivery.

Based upon the success of the early prototypes, the retailer will be expanding its operations to 150 of their 200 stores through their seven-state market area in the Mid-Atlantic.