Retail major Tesco is all set to expand its online operations with the opening new ‘dark stores’ to tap the gaining popularity of internet grocery shopping.

Dark Stores are effectively stores without any customers, fulfilling orders placed by internet customers; Tesco currently has four such stores serving London and the South-East.

The move is part of the retailer’s £1bn investment plan that was unveiled in April 2012 to improve its UK stores.

Tesco is cutting back on new store openings to focus more on online shopping and the retailer anticipates doubling its sales to more than £5bn over the next five years.

Tesco Internet Retailing director Ken Towle told Financial Times that the retailer had planned to open more ‘dark stores’.

The British chain is looking to open a fifth Dark Store in Crawley early next year with a sixth in Erith, near Dartford, in about 18 months, Towle added.

Towle said that each new dark store would enable Tesco to redesign 10 regular supermarkets to make them easier for customers to shop in.

The demand for online groceries would at least double from the current 5.5% of Tesco’s total sales, Towle anticipates.

Commenting on food online Towle added, "Food online is growing really well for us."

Tesco, currently, operates in 14 markets across Europe, Asia and North America.