UK supermarkets are dramatically reducing the number 24-hour stores as they opt to use their downtime to pick online orders instead.
According to a new report from the Financial Times, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury’s have all significantly reduced the number of stores open all hours of the day amid a pandemic-driven shift in shopping habits.
Tesco, which was the first supermarket to open its stores during the night in the UK, offered 24-hour shopping in more than half of its large stores in 2000.
Now the UK’s largest grocer offers all-day shopping at just nine of its 173 largest stores.
Former chief executive Dave Lewis told the FT Future Forum that closing the stores at midnight allows workers to pick online orders “from that store much more intensively than you would have done before”.
Asda is also understood to have reduced the number of stores open all night from 200 to 106, stating the change “reflects the way that customers are now shopping with us, such as the shift online and changes to working patterns”.
Sainsbury’s has also reportedly reduced its number of 24 hours stores, stating that it “regularly review(s) store opening hours” but hasn’t announced any changes.
Stores began to offer 24-hour opening hours when the law on opening times changed in the 1990s, with managers figuring if the store was staffed for restocking anyway, they may as well open for business.
During the early days of the pandemic, night-time hours were vital to restock shelves and give exhausted front-line workers a break.
However, once panic buying had subsided the huge shift online meant these hours were needed to begin picking online and click-and-collect orders for the next day, the large majority of which is done in stores.