Retail Distribution Centers

Retail Distribution Centers

Retail distribution centers are warehouses or special facilities usually with a cooling device in which goods are stored before they are distributed to retail stores.

They are also loosely referred to as warehouses, fulfillment centers, bulk breaking centers, and cross-dock facilities. A retail distribution center is an essential component of the supply process.

What does a retail distribution center look like?

Retail distribution centers usually have three areas and may have other specialized ones.

The three major parts are the receiving dock, storage area, and shipping dock.  Each of these areas may be divided into sections for specific product categories.

Distribution centers also have other areas for special processes such as:

  • Goods in
  • Bulk department
  • Breakbulk department
  • Export department
  • Quality assurance department
  • Administration department
  • Packaging
  • Transportation
  • Dedicated products department
  • Human resources
  • Maintenance facilities
  • Production control
  • Accounting

Types of Retail Distribution Centers


  • Conventional: The movement of goods through and out of the center is performed by both people and mobile equipment. As the name implies, this is the traditional type of retail distribution center.


  • Mechanized: The movement of goods in the center is assisted by mechanized systems.


  • Automated: The movement of goods in the center is totally carried out by machines or robots. This is seen in highly sophisticated centers of large distributing companies.

Distribution Centers in America


Below is a list of some of the distribution centers in the U.S

  • Walmart Distribution

Walmart runs a retail distribution network totaling 141 million square feet in size. The company’s distribution centers are classified into these types:

  1. Regional distribution centers
  2. Food distribution centers
  3. Fashion distribution centers
  4. E-commerce fulfillment centers
  5. Sam’s club E-commerce fulfillment centers
  6. Specialty distribution centers
  7. Important and Redistribution centers
  8. Center point distribution center
  9. Sam’s Club distribution center

These distribution centers have in total, 190 currently active facilities. Each of the facilities distributes goods to 90 to 170 retail stores. They measure between 640000 to 1.6 million square feet each.

The company also employs around 800 warehouse employees

  • Barrett Distribution Centers

Established in 1941, Barrett has since provided omnichannel retail distribution to their clients. They distribute apparel and footwear; health and beauty, big box and e-commerce retail; grocery, food, candy, electronics, and automobile parts. Their distribution centers cover up to 4 million square feet in the U.S, strategically located in Greater Boston, Dallas, California, New York, New Jersey, Baltimore, and Memphis.

  • Core-Mark

Core-Mark has 32 distribution centers strategically located across North America. The distribution centers supply 46000 retailers in the U.S and Canada. There are 22 American divisions, 4 Canadian divisions, and 6 consolidated 3PL warehouses.

Four of their distribution centers are for distributing general merchandise, health, and beauty, as well as frozen products. They are known for competitive pricing, wide product selection, and good customer service. These qualities have held on to for more than 100 years.

  • KeHE

This company has an order fulfillment and distribution network known to supply over 30000 retail stores in North America.

They run 15 North American distribution centers and have a total of about 5 million square feet of space.