A guy on a scooter with a fat delivery sack on his back leaves a distribution hub set up last year in a peaceful residential street in the south of Paris. Last year it was a shop, but now it’s a so-called “dark store.” Panels advertising groceries delivered in 15 minutes cover what used to be shop windows.
Catherine Clavaud, who lives in the same building, said her quality of life has taken a hit since the service started.
“It’s very disturbing,” she said, speaking in French. “There’s so much noise. Especially this summer, when the delivery men were outside shouting — arguing until midnight, even 1 in the morning.”
Quick home grocery and meal deliveries have become a part of many people’s lives during the pandemic. In France, some came to rely on stores converted into distribution hubs with delivery guys zooming in and out, often day and night. But now there are those who say they don’t like these start-ups, and the government is clamping down.
Annick Bossuet is a resident who said her neighborhood has suffered, too. “It’s killing the local shops, but what can you do?” she said, speaking in French. “Now, people prefer getting what they want at the push of a button.”
Paris City Hall says there are about 100 “dark stores” in Paris. There are also at least 25 “dark kitchens,” where takeout meals are prepared but no patrons come to eat. Elected leaders here and in other cities say they will drive dark stores out of their town centers, and the national government says it will soon publish a decree enabling local leaders to do so, arguing that these are not stores but warehouses.
Paul Lê is co-founder of La Belle Vie, which delivers groceries in the Paris area. It has changed its quick commerce model because of the pressure.
“The neighbors, they didn’t like us. So now we try to hide,” he said.
La Belle Vie no longer operates out of former stores but uses a big warehouse, Lê added, offering a wide range of groceries with “semi-fast” delivery — one to four hours.
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