Natural Foods Merchandiser
What can I learn from Trader Joe's to create a loyal following?

What can I learn from Trader Joe's to create a loyal following?

Want to make like Trader Joe's? Here are some tips from outside experts on how to boost customer loyalty to your store.

Perhaps no other grocery chain inspires a cultlike following like Trader Joes. The retailer has 367 stores in 32 states, and captivated consumers frequently petition for more. Groups named Bring Trader Joes to My City and My State abound on Facebook. Although seemingly satisfied employees guard their trade secrets, we asked outside experts to share top ways to emulate the companyor to improve upon its practicesin order to create a similar customer loyalty.

Retail consultant

  • Tell a story.
    Trader Joes Fearless Flyer is not merely a catalogue of goods but a collection of storiesmaybe with a bit of whimsical fictionabout products. Charles Revson, creator of Revlon, once said, In the factory, we make cosmetics; in the drugstore, we sell hope.You will sell products by telling stories in your print pieces, on your website, on your shelf tags and on your Facebook page.
  • Stock unique products.
    Trader Joes sells items youd struggle to find anywhere else. To differentiate yourself from the competition, concentrate on finding distinctive products, rather than selling commoditized ones for cheap. During my time as director of purchasing for a natural products retailer, I made this effort by having eight meetings every week with my buyers and our standing New Products Committee.
  • Cultivate a worthy private label line.
    Dont put your name on a cheap knockoff product. Youre a leading source of health and wellness goods in your community, so your brands should reflect that value. Trader Joes private label line consists of quality products in very nice packages.Invest in growing your brandits quality, its look and its breadthand that, in turn, will grow sales.

    Bill Crawford, director of retail programs at New Hope Natural Media in Boulder, Colo.

Human resources specialist

  • Foster superior customer service.
    Give employees opportunities to work on different tasks throughout their shifts. When a staff member runs a register for fewer than two hours at a stretch, shes more likely to keep her sparkle with customers. No employee should be considered above doing a needed job. Expect managers to cashier, sweep and stock when its busy.
  • Hold employees accountable.
    Trader Joes is selective about who it hires, and it sets high work standards and reinforces them with thorough training. In your store, establish a meaningful trial period for new hires, ask coworkers for feedback on their performance, and quickly part ways with those who cant or wont keep up the pace. Hard work can be fun if everyone on the crew keeps a positive attitude and pulls his weight. Keeping slackers demoralizes the hard workers and sends the message that their efforts arent appreciated.
  • Focus on your mission.
    If selling national brands for a large chain inspires Trader Joes employees, yours could be invigorated by supporting local producers and promoting community health. Involve your staff in an Eat Local challenge or a Buy Local campaign. Take them on farm tours to meet local growers. You are authentically local. Trader Joes can never be.

    Carolee Colter, Owner of CDS Consulting Co-op in Nelson, B.C., Canada

Trader Joes customer

  • Keep prices right.
    Trader Joes has a large selection of natural, organic and private label items at reasonable prices. When I travel to Ann Arbor, Mich., for up to six weeks each summer, I always buy extra Indian sauces, tortellini, trail mixes, nuts and more to bring home to Colorado. I can find unique flavor combinations with ethnic influences that really arent available anywhere else. The prices are also great. A 12-ounce bag of nuts may cost only $3.99.
  • Promote signature items.
    Whats not to love about Two Buck Chuck? My friends in Michigan buy it by the case. Given the low prices of other wines at Trader Joes, I can take a chance on my purchases. If I end up with a red wine that I dont care for, it makes a good base for sangria.
  • Remember the little people.
    My son loves using the tiny carts at Trader Joes. He gets excited about picking out foods he would like to try, and he keeps them in his own basket. I usually let him choose whatever he wants from the produce section. It makes shopping with my son more interactive.

Nancy McLaughlin, Trader Joes seasonal customer in Erie, Colo., who will welcome the chains first Colorado store in 2013


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