The New Shopping Hubs for Cities: Warehouse Distribution Centers
By: The Wall Street Journal April 21, 2017
Past scrapyards, railroad tracks, stacks of old wooden pallets and rusty shipping containers here sits a nondescript warehouse, alongside a snarl of freeway overpasses, with two dozen trucks parked at its docks.
This is where families across the dense New York City metropolitan area are getting their essential household shopping done.
Every day, tens of thousands of bulk household items move through the Boxed.com fulfillment center, destined for the online retailer's customers along the Northeast corridor. Incoming orders get assigned to large plastic bins that travel along an automated system of nearly 2 miles of conveyors. Workers stationed along the winding route drop each item — from paper towels to peanut butter — into the bins as they pass by. When the order is complete, packers arrange the items in a box, tape it shut and set it on another conveyor headed for a waiting delivery truck.
“All these undesirable locations are now really desirable” for retail, Boxed founder Chieh Huang said on a recent tour of this facility.
Warehouses like these are becoming a way of life for many urbanites. Instead of spending the afternoon choosing items off store shelves and standing in a checkout line, city dwellers of the future will tap a few buttons on hand-held devices and a part-human, part-machine warehouse crew in a nearby industrial district will handle the transaction from start to finish. The weekly shopping is done in 10 minutes, and the shopper never has to leave the house.