Tesco is set to open two more urban fulfilment centres as plans to revolutionise its online operation using new technology gather pace following pandemic delays.

The Grocer can reveal the latest site will be the Horwich Extra store, in Bolton, as Tesco seeks to capitalise on a huge growth in online sales by creating new dedicated automatic picking areas in excess space in its large stores.

The supermarket giant announced a near 60% increase in sales compared with 2019 in the weeks before Christmas, with CEO Ken Murphy boasting of the retailer’s “highest online share since the pandemic began”.

Tesco’s second UFC is set to open in Bradford later this week, with the facility catering for nearly 30 dotcom delivery vans. The first site opened in West Bromwich last summer.

In 2020, Tesco set out plans to open 25 of the facilities, which enable faster picking and quicker deliveries, within the following three years, to add to its network of distribution centres and in-store picking.

However, the rollout has been slowed due to the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

A Tesco spokeswoman said: “It is our ambition to open a number of urban fulfilment centres over the next few years, and we are excited one of these centres will open in Bradford.

“Urban fulfilment centres will use excess space in our large stores to fulfil online orders using automated technology in an area entirely separate to the customer store, making it more convenient for our customers. It will also grow our online capacity as well as giving our customers more home delivery slots.”