Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Retail Memo: A Peak Inside a New Trader Joe's Store

On Friday, February 1, a new 13,000 square foot Trader Joe's market will open in the Kercheval Avenue business district in Grosse Pointe City, Michigan, a wealthy city of about 7,000 people in Wayne County, Michigan.

Grosse Point City, often referred to by locals merely as "the city," is a suburb of Detroit, and is about 8 miles from the motor city. It's one of six similar-sized cities--Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Gross Pointe Shores , Grosse Pointe Woods and Lake St. Clair--that are located literally right next to each other in Wayne County. The region is often collectively called "The Pointes."

These six wealthy Detroit suburbs together should make for a healthy market for Trader Joe's and its eclectic selection of specialty and natural foods and products.

Trader Joe's stores are small-format, but are packed with everything from fresh produce and meat departments, wine and craft beers areas, to extensive selections of perishables, frozen foods and fresh, prepared foods, along with shelves of specialty, ethnic, gourmet, natural and organic gorcery products. About 75-80% of the grocery items in the stores are branded under Trader Joe's various private labels. The new Grosse Pointe City TJ's even has an in-store food sampling kiosk where shoppers can taste all kinds of foods and beverages.

Amy Salvagno, a writer for G& G Newspapers, a Michigan chain of publications that serves readers in many cities in the area, got a peek inside the yet to open store, and has a piece in today's paper about what she saw.

We like the piece--it's interesting, descriptive, consise and fairly brief--so decided to share it with our readers. You can read Ms. Salvagno's article here.

Trader Joe's, which is headquartered in Southern California and owned by the German retailer Aldi, currently has about 300 stores in the U.S. All Trader Joe's banner stores are in the USA.

The specialty grocer is expanding rapidly, building and opening new stores throughout the country, from California to New York, and nearly everywhere in between. The grocer is so popular in fact that numerous cities and neighborhood groups, such as those in Albany, New York and Nashville, Tennessee to site just two examples, have launched sophisticated lobbying campaigns to try and convince TJ's to open stores in their towns.

Trader Joe's is the leader in what we've termed the small-format food retailing revolution in America. It's quirky stores, full of specialty, natural and organic products, do so well in part because they make shopping fun. Store associates wear funky tropical island-print shirts, and all the in-store signs are hand-produced works of art, done with colored chalk on black or green chalkboards, rather than ink on paper signs like most grocery stores. All Trader Joe's stores have at least one--and often more than one--employee who's only job is to hand-create in-store product signs.

Trader Joe's private-label branded products also are a big hit with customers. They love the product names, quality, varieties and prices. And of course, TJ's famous "Two-Buck-Chuck" line of $1.99 bottle wines, which have won many awards over wines that cost ten-times the price, are another big hit with shoppers.

The specialty grocer also extends its fun-filled merchandising philosophy to its new store grand openings. The new Grosse Pointe TJ's grand opening, like all new store openings, will begin with a Hawaiian lei cutting (rather than a traditional ribbon) ceremony at 8:45 in the morning. As store officials cut the lei, a live band will play tropical music for those in attendance. Employees will, of course, be dressed as if they just returned from a tropical island vacation.

The grand opening fun also features clowns and face-painting for the kids, lots of free food and drink, and tons of free ballons and stickers, for both real children and children at heart.

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