The following thoughts come from a value-shopping good food eater who (usually) seeks ingredients transparency. That same eater (AKA Susie) is a 30-year+ Trader Joe’s customer and major devotee. I know, how can someone who’s 29 have shopped at TJ’s for 30 years? I wonder the same thing.
The Internyet has been blabbing about how Trader Joe’s has lowered its prices on many items recently. Well, I believe that in recent years, Trader Joe’s has become more expensive than it used to be on many items, standardizing prices across many SKUs. Take a look at the cookie aisle and you’ll notice lots of $3.99+ items. By doing this some previously expensive items would have lower prices. Some cheaper ones would now cost more.
Still, TJ’s prices on chips, nuts, dairy and other staples blow away conventional supermarkets in terms of prices, flavor options, return policies, sampling policies…I could go on.
Sure Trader Joe’s staff are remarkably friendly, pro-active and energetic.
And yes the food is usually great. If it’s not, you know you can return it.
So it will be interesting to see what of these propositions the new, smaller format 365 by Whole Foods stores bring in, the first of which will open in Los Angeles‘ “hip” Silverlake area on May 25, 2016.
The news is mostly focused on how the 365 by Whole Foods stores will compete with Trader by packaging up private label food under their brand. (Where’s the mention of Sprouts? Is Sprouts not targeting a Whole Foods / Trader Joe’s shopper? Sure seems like it to me.)
“Make healthy living easy. Every day. For everybody.”
365 by Whole Foods is locating initially in dense, urban areas filled with young creative types, with 18-34 year olds as their sweet spot.
Given their mission / slogan, I hope to hear about and see elderly people who get around on foot finding these stores to be friendly and full of affordable, good foods — or getting their food delivered by Instacart, which has been a lifesaver for my parents at times!
One big key to 365 success
Between the partnership with Instacart for delivery, and what I predict will be an 80 / 20 rule of having 80% of the things 80% of the people want 80% of the time, they will eliminate the paradox of choice that has made large-format supermarkets so annoying.
Convenience is a huge eating and shopping trend now.
Trader Joe’s is a big convenience store where you know you can find your “usuals” while embarking on a spirit of discovery. Sound like Costco? Despite Costco’s behemoth size, shoppers often report the same type of experience that lures us back to Trader Joe’s: the staples you can count on, new foods to try, friendly return policies and good prices. Convenience — not so much.
If 365 by Whole Foods delivers similar benefits and dials up trustworthiness (avoiding future mis-pricing kerfuffles), they can really appeal to a shopper who wants:
- organics and / or non-GMO clean foods
- true authenticity and traceability to the producers / sources (which is something Trader talks about at times but does not focus on…Thai prawns anyone?)
- convenience, eliminating that paradox of choice of “everything for everyone” that makes shopping in a huge store so overwhelming
The 365 by Whole Foods press release describes the concept like this: “Designed to complement the Whole FoodsMarket® brand by bringing fresh, healthy foods to a broader audience with a streamlined, quality-meets-value shopping experience, 365 by Whole Foods Market stores will feature a curated mix of products that adhere to the company’s industry-leading quality standards in an environment that’s fun and convenient for shoppers.”
Throw in incentives for employees to be super happy and super invested in a great customer experience, and they could be on to something. After all, with Instacart and fast casual restaurant partnerships, a meal delivery service ala Munchery and Uber Eats is not so far fetched. (My only doubt for the LA store is the choice of a vegan restaurant. Are there really that many people who are committed to eating vegan? Maybe!)
Throw in a sense of playfulness ala Trader.
Throw out the word curate. Maybe back when the 365 concept was fermenting the idea of “curating” seemed hot. Now it seems…over. Every store is curated. By buyers. (And through shopper suggestions). Saying that you are curating is redundant with the message of a limited selection and smacks of public company corporate speak that may turn off shoppers.
Disclosure:Multiple industry analysts are calling WFM stock a buy. I’m walking my talk, having bought WFM stock while writing this even after my rant.