5 Things Other Grocery Stores Should Steal from Trader Joe's
Often pieces like this have a disclaimer at the end: I do not own shares in..., I am not employed by...; you get the idea. I have no vested interest in Trader Joe's other than that I'd like to see them expand so that I can find one wherever I go in the states.
If you don't shop at Trader Joe's, give it a shot. If you do, you should know what I'm talking about. If you're a competitor of Trader Joe's (every other grocery store chain out there), then listen up. You've got some learning and some work to do, or your customers are going to "trade" you for the competition. Here are five things to copy:
1. Prices That Can't Be Beat
I shop at Trader Joe's and Meijer. I only shop at Meijer (a Midwestern, Wal-Mart-style, we-sell-everything type store) for the stuff that Trader Joe's can't carry in its tiny locations. Trader Joe's mostly has Trader Joe's generic label brands. However, you'll find a few other brands that you can also find elsewhere, including at Meijer and Kroger. And for these brands, I've often found identical items to be 25-30% cheaper at Trader Joe's. And TJ's generic items are significantly cheaper than generics at other stores. How do they do it? I don't know. I definitely save money on groceries at TJ's. (See also: Organic Groceries on a Budget)
2. Unique, Quality Products
I have never felt like I've bought something of poor quality at Trader Joe's. Occasionally the store's produce is not the freshest (I still do a lot of my produce shopping at Whole Foods), but everything else seems to be at peak quality. Cheap and high-quality at the same time? Unheard of. There are so many new foods that I've tried at Trader Joe's that I simply can't find elsewhere and would have never tried otherwise.
3. Healthy Foods
Much of Trader Joe's selection is organic and comparatively healthy compared to what you'll find in other grocery stores. Yes, the store does have ice cream, sodas, and chips — but we all have to give in to our guilty pleasures now and then. You can find antibiotic and growth-hormone-free meat and milk, and ingredient lists on items often lack high-fructose corn syrup, food dyes, and other unworldly foreign crap. I still look at the ingredient lists, but I'm fairly confident that if I grabbed something on the run and didn't look until I got home, I would not be displeased with the ingredients.
In any other major grocery store chain (excluding Whole Foods), nine times out of ten, whatever I grab is going to be loaded with unhealthy ingredients. It's nice not to have to worry about that for a change. Healthy food is one of Trader Joe's cornerstones.
I alluded to this a little bit, but TJ's stores are comparatively tiny. No, they don't carry motor oil, toys, or 50 types of facial tissues. But you know what? I'm just fine with that! After a busy week at work, the last thing I want to do is have to choose between 30 brands of laundry detergent. I also don't want to have to walk a quarter-mile to the back of the store if I forgot something when I get to the checkout. My grocery trips to TJ's last under 20 minutes a piece. At Kroger or Meijer's, they used to last an hour or more.
It's also hard to get lost. I know where everything is, and I rarely have to ask.
5. Enthusiastic Staff
The staff at Trader Joe's seem to like working there (or at least they fake it pretty well). You can tell that the staff has the same kind of enthusiasm for the product as the customers do. The only other retail chain that I can say that about is REI.
The Downsides of Trader Joe's?
In addition to the produce that isn't always the freshest, you need to hit TJ's at the right time (usually early in the morning), or the inventory on baked goods and produce is typically ravaged. I also wish that I could order stuff online. Other than that, I have no legitimate complaints.
I applaud you, Trader Joe's, for making my grocery shopping experience pleasant.
What about Trader Joe's or your most frequented grocery store do you love and hate?
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