Trader Joe's Secrets

Regular readers of this blog will be familiar with Trader Joe’s unexpected owners: a German discount-grocery chain. A new article in Fortune aims to reveal a few more Trader Joe’s secrets. Fortune interviewed various sources, although, in keeping with its reputation for secrecy, the company itself has “never participated in a major story about its business operations.” “What emerged is a picture of a business at a crossroads,” writes Beth Kowitt. “As the company expands into new markets and adds stores — analysts say the grocer could easily triple its size in the coming years — it must find a way to maintain its small-store vibe with customers.” [%comments]


Grubersauce

I've been going to Trader Joe's for roughly 5 years. One thing I have noticed is that its always the same employees working there.

Not a bunch of teenagers who work the job for a few months and move on.

I think seeing the familiar faces every time I shop there definitely contributes to the small-store vibe.

Seth

The whole "owned by Germans" thing is a cover to keep people from finding out the real secret.

Elia Palmieri

Maybe we could open a Trader Joe's here!

Ed

#1, your observation that the same employees work there is interesting and may be apropos. They may be following the same and much maligned (by "analysts") approach that Costco uses: Pay your employees well, treat them well and you will have a stable, hard working group with little money-wasting turnover. The analysts are always yelling and screaming that Costco should cut cut cut wages like Wallmart to "save" money, but Costco realizes that what saves you in the short term often costs you in the long term. The stability of Trader Joes workforce may well be predicated on the same "pay and treat your employees well" approach, which in turn leads to a more stable and productive company in the long term.

Dave

Trader Joe's has been owned by the family trust that owns the Aldi chain, in Germany, for years; in CA, where Trader Joe's is ubiquitous, this is a non-story. Trader Joe's is non-unionized, pays its workers above-average wages, with benefits, and provides a path to promotion - this has all been reported before in various venues. Because they don't buy from the big food conglomerates, and source much of their own food, they can charge much less for what Whole Foods and others charge exorbitant amounts. Cashiers also shelve and stock. Everyone does everything. Because of all this, their per square foot profit is among the highest, if not the highest, in the grocery industry. Needless to say, they have less employee turnover.

Melanie

I love TJs and Aldi both, and both stores, although differing in target audience, certainly operate similarly. Yay for bargains!

Eric

Seth: Obviously Tibetan Monks own the chain as a part of a far reaching plot to overthrow the Chinese government and take over India without any bloodshed.

In all seriousness, parts of TJ's business practices seem odd, I guess it makes sense but... shipping Indian food from India? And Thai from Thailand? The recipes don't magically change depending on where one packages them.

popskoenig

fter the 11/2010 elections you will probably see a long line of ex-pols extending out the door of T.Joe's...all looking for employment there...give us those goofy teens anytime!!!

Steve S.

I don't find it too surprising that Trader Joe's is German Owned. What I do find surprising, and equally appealing, is the outgoing, friendly, knowledgeable about their product-vibe that I get when I shop there. Being a Philadelphian, this is even more exceptional!

Grubersauce

Right on, Ed.

Along with slow-turnover those employees there for "the long haul" also probably care more about the store (and its shoppers) than an employee just making a buck in between getting a new/different/better job.

It's a win for Trader Joes and also for the Trader Joes customer.

anon

Right. So the Germans own Trader Joe's. How important.

Pray tell who owns the banks and media companies?

Drill-Baby-Drill Drill Team

IF we can insert a double agent in Trader Joe's we can discover ALL their secrets.

We will cause this Agent: Traitor Joe.

David L

Trader Joe's has good food and good prices.

I could care less what "vibe" their stores have.

Pamela D

I have worked at the Joe for almost two years now...I am far from a teenager...It is the best place I have ever worked and hopefully I will be there til retirement...We crew members are treated like valuable assets to the company and even though we work hard, we almost always have fun at work...We truly care about each other and our customers...

L Nettles

No Trader Joe's in this part of the U.S.A, but I love to shop at ALDIs in large part because the check out process is so darn fast.

Larry Schnebly

We have been Trader Joe fans for YEARS. Used to visit our son in California and come home with big bags of stuff. Were
very happy when they finally opened in Tucson! I am in there
at least twice a week. Good food.....good prices.......terrific service.........a sense that their customers are PEOPLE....not cattle to be herded in and out.

Eric in Portland, Ore.

Trader Joe's is owned not by Aldi, but the Theo Albrecht Charitable Trust.

Barbara Gregg

I work at a library across the street from a TJ's and I really like the service. The big chain food store which is close isn't so available to ask where stuff is..frustrating when you are punching the clock and have to be back !

econobiker

I once heard that Trader Joe's is basically "Aldi's for rich folks."

That said- I like Aldi's but had not been to the Trader Joe's closest to me in Nashville, TN.

november

L Nettles:

It was so much fun to watch the cashiers at Aldi before they installed scanners. Their fingers moved lightening fast. I always admired their ability, not only to type so quickly, but also to apparently memorize all of the item codes. Aldi cashiers are amazing.

TJ's cashiers are alright. What they lack in speed, they certainly make up in perkiness. :)