MONROVIA, Calif. — The grocery wars may be heating up, but Trader Joe’s is not letting reports of doom and gloom rain on its parade. The chain of neighborhood grocery stores known, in part, for its own brands today opened the last of its new locations for 2017, bringing the year’s total to 14. Hundreds of customers were welcomed with leis, and treated to free food and beverage tastings at stores in Allston, Mass.; Kalamazoo, Mich., and North Brunswick, N.J.
In the last 10 years, Trader Joe's has opened an average of 23 stores annually, bringing hundreds of jobs in communities nationwide, nearly all of which have been filled by neighborhood residents, the company said. The grocery retailer shows no signs of slowing the pace: Plans for 2018 locations are already underway.
“A lot goes into bringing a new Trader Joe's store to a neighborhood,” said Trader Joe's spokesperson Kenya Friend-Daniel. “Aside from the logistics we want to be sure we have the right space and crew members who are engaged and passionate, not just about Trader Joe's, food and earning the delight of our customers, but also in their lives outside of work. We continue to find the best of the best.”
This week's openings come on the heels of the grocery retailer’s 50th anniversary celebration. In August, Trader Joe's locations across the country thanked shoppers by inviting them to enjoy games, giveaways and tastings. Total customer count in the two-day period increased by nearly 10% compared with the same time last year. Trader Joe's attributes its consistent year-over-year growth to its customers.
“Our customers are the reason we are still here, 50 years later, continuing to grow and make a difference in the neighborhoods we serve,” said Friend-Daniel. “That is why our focus is, and always has been, on providing them with the best and most unique products at great prices, as well as a fun and engaging experience, every time they shop at one of our stores. It's just that simple. We are aware that our customers have the choice to shop wherever they want, so we are always honored when they choose us as their neighborhood grocery store, whether it’s for all of their grocery needs or just select items.”
But Trader Joe’s has lost some of its customers to Whole Foods Market since it was acquired by Amazon. Citing a report from Magid, Food Navigator reported that Trader Joe's is at risk “because its customers aggressively cross shop at both Whole Foods and Amazon at levels three to four times the industry average.” Another report published by Thanos found that Trader Joe’s saw an average loss of almost 10% of its daily customers — for now. Although this news may spell trouble for the grocery retailer, there are several factors going for it in the long term. First, the grocery retailer offers shoppers an appealing assortment of own brands that are, obviously, not available anywhere else. Second, shoppers who “defected” to Whole Foods may well wander back to the grocery retailer. Perhaps most important, customers don’t have to shell out annual fees to shop at Trader Joe’s, a factor that gives the grocery retailer a key way to differentiate itself from its seemingly unconquerable competitor. The notion of no annual fee can be presented as another way Trader Joe’s offers its shoppers value.