Last week Trader Joe´s opened two new stores in Texas. With a crowd waiting in long lines to get in. This is not an opening scene only. Some city stores (in NYC for instance) more often have fans qeueing up to access the store. To be able to buying Trader Joe´s items they appreciate so much. Would e-commerce help TJ’s to better cater to its customers?
“I don’t expect Trader Joe’s to offer e-commerce or m-commerce in the not-too-distant future”, says Matthias Queck, research director of Planet Retail. “This would undermine the instore shopping experience and the psychologically valuable feeling of artificial shortage. With this I mean the fact that you get TJ’s goods only at the 375 stores nationwide. And when it’s gone, it’s gone.”
So it’s wiser playing hard to get, instead of obeying the marketing mantra of customer = king? Len Lewis, industry expert and author of the book The Trader Joe’s Adventure (2005), agrees with Queck that an online strategy would hurt Trader Joe’s. “Apps and e-commerce would take away some of the old fashioned charm that shoppers like”, he says. “Mobile is not what TJ’s wants. They want people shopping the stores, finding new items and talking to other customers about what they buy. The in-store experience is everythingfor TJ’s. It’s not a smartphone kind of operation.”
TJ’s is currently trying to set up stores in states and areas where it has not been before”, adds Queck. “An obvious sign that TJ’s clearly considers its concept a brick and mortar experience. Furthermore, online would make shopping more expensive.”
The latter argument is interesting as Trader Joe’s belongs to Aldi Nord, the Essen, Germany-based hard discount chain. Aldi dislikes complexity, as complexity adds unwanted costs. This would make shopping more expensive at least – or, from a retailer’s point of view – less profitable.
Therefore it’s all the more remarkable that Dieter Brandes – until 1985 board member of Aldi Nord and the man who connected Trader Joe’s founding father Joe Coulombe to his boss Theo Albrecht – thinks e-commerce a viable option for Trader Joe’s. “Of course Trader Joe’s has to consider e-commerce”, Brandes says. “In my view their assortment is much more suitable for e-commerce than the mass volume articles at Aldi.”