Trader Joe's bucks much of the general wisdom of typical grocery stores in the U.S. - it doesn't do sales or coupons, has no self-checkout, no loyalty cards, and almost always has a nightmare-ish line at check-out. Here's how it was successful anyway.
A trip to Trader Joe's is an odyssey, with struggles, discovery and the spoils of victory: Its parking lots are notorious ("If you didn't have a near death experience in a parking lot, did you even go to Trader Joe's?" tweeted a customer), as are the long checkout lines that wind through the store's crowded aisles. And you won't find sales, coupons or loyalty cards. But Trader Joe's shoppers inevitably leave with an exciting new snack addiction and a respectable bottle of wine for under $5.
That odyssey, the emotional journey, is part of what has inspired consumers' obsession with Trader Joe's.
There are unofficial Instagram accounts dedicated to the brand (@traderjoeslist has 1.1 million followers alone). Even celebrities crave Trader Joe's; Hillary Duff, for example, is "obsessed" with the egg-white salad. And when Trader Joe's opened it's store in Germantown outside of Memphis in Tennessee, more than 500 people reportedly waited in line.
Fandom translates to sales. In 2019, Trader Joe's 505 U.S. stores had an estimated $13.7 billion in net sales, according to retail insights company Edge by Ascential. For comparison, Whole Foods had $16.5 billion U.S. net sales in 2019 (in-store sales only, Whole Foods groceries sold on Amazon.com not included), while Costco had $110.5 billion in store-based (Costco.com sales are tracked separately) net sales, according to Edge by Ascential.
Bringing in billions from a cult of customers is no accident. But the brand has carefully pruned its business strategy to inspire evangelism from its customers. Here are some of the ways Trader Joe's gets people hooked.
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Why You Spend So Much Money At Trader Joe's