Sainsbury’s has opened a purpose-built centre in London to cope with the demand for its online grocery orders.

The supermarket chain opened the centre in Bromley-by-Bow after predicting that demand for online groceries will double over the next eight years as more shoppers adopt a mixed shopping habit, combining online orders with in-store purchases. 

The 85,000 sq ft centre has the capacity to fulfil 25,000 customer orders per week, while the chilled picking area is 10 times the size of an average Sainsbury’s store.

Once staff pick orders from the shelves they are transferred to an automated system that operates 1.5km of conveyor belts and can carry over 7,000 crates per hour to vans for distribution. 

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

Clodagh Moriarty, Sainsbury’s director of online, said: “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.”

Sainsbury’s last year grew online sales by nearly 9% and orders grew by nearly 15%.