Practically, all large supermarkets in the United States – as well as in other countries such as Canada, the United Kingdom or Mexico – have a delivery service. In the digital age, the competition on the internet is just as important as competing in the physical world.
I said “practically” all of them, because there is one that has remained away from this: we are talking about Trade Joe’s. The Californian company, which opened its doors in 1967 in Pasadena, capture buyers who are not attracted by major chains such as Costco or Lidl, and emphasizes a fundamental concept: “the store is our brand”, says the company in which the nautical theme is everywhere.
Trader Joe’s is better in real life
E-commerce is an expensive task for supermarkets because an e-commerce platform is neither cheap nor simple, and many things have to be covered such as stock, security, electronic payment systems and other matters.
In addition to this, the entire home delivery infrastructure is quite expensive. It includes the acquisition of cars or trucks, as well as the hiring of personnel to drive them and to handle the groceries. Many supermarkets have outsourced logistics to third-party platforms, but that also represents a cost that is usually transferred to the final consumer.
The case of Trader Joe’s is worth studying, because it survived one of the darkest moments in history for supermarkets, which was the COVID-19 pandemic. In those dark years, the clientele opted for delivery as a way to avoid crowds and contact with strangers, and little by little it was becoming something of the new post-pandemic normal life for everyone.
“Trader Joe’s is skeptical of the change. They have something that’s working really well,“ said Benjamin Lorr, author of “The Secret Life of Groceries,” he added. “The chain has taken a long time to adapt to its core model and core competence”.
Let’s remember that Trader Joe’s is not Costco, in terms of the size of its stores: TJ’s locations are rather small and cozy, and they prioritize quality over quantity. They choose to settle in small corners of cities and to be closer to urban centers, unlike chains like Costco or Walmart that have gigantic facilities with very large parking lots. If you are not lucky enough to find a space near the door, you’re gonna have to walk miles.
Although Trader Joe’s could opt to build warehouses to fulfill grocery orders, that would be a huge investment for the company, which could force it to raise prices or reduce wages, and the company is not willing to either option. Both customers and employees are priority, and the chain is not going to prioritize profits over the well-being of people.
“Creating an online shopping system for curbside pickup or the infrastructure for delivery – it’s a massive undertaking,” Trader Joe’s vice president of marketing Matt Sloan said in a company podcast in 2020. “It’s something that takes months or years to plan, build and implement and it requires tremendous resources.”
Another of the problems with implementing a delivery service is that Trade Joe’s introduces new products every month, at the same speed at which it discontinues others. So, the administration of a website that keeps up with stocks would be a task, to say the least, titanic. I would say it is an impossible task.
That dynamic of product entry and exit is one of the attractions of Trader Joe’s stores, because customers play “the treasure hunt”. One store is not the same as another, and that seems beautiful to me. When I’m traveling in another city, I look for the local Trader Joe’s to see what strange and interesting items I find that are not in the ones in Los Angeles, where I live.
In conclussion, for now, you are going to have to continue driving down to your local Trader Joe’s, and I’m sure you don’t have any problem with that. Walking its aisles and checking on the shelves is its main sorcery.