Lessons From a Grocery Store

With over 450 locations and pushing $10 Billion in annual sales, we just might be able to learn a thing or two about business from a fast growing grocery chain. You might be wondering what we can possibly learn about our Blue Collar industries from the grocery business, but keep reading as there are some timeless business lessons for us to think about and implement in our own companies.

If you haven’t shopped at a Trader Joe's before, you’ve certainly had someone tell you about their experience and recommend that you shop there as soon as you get the opportunity. My very first experience with this grocery chain was a word of mouth referral regarding their inexpensive wine selection.

That may be what got me in the store the first time, but it is not what keeps me going back time and time again. Since the closest store to us back home is four hours away, we must strategically plan what to stock our pantry with once we are in a market where they have locations. Today I want to share a few things that we can implement in our businesses that has helped them remain one of the fastest growing grocers on the planet.

Make it fun – when I asked a TJ’s team member one time why all the team seemed to always be in good spirts have a good attitudes, he simply replied with “Rule number one: Have fun”. If team members are having a good time and enjoy the people and clients they serve then the service is automatically kicked up a notch without anyone really even trying. Is your culture fun? Is it fun working with you? Is it fun being you?

Private Label Products – some statistics say that up to 98% of what Trader Joe's sells is private label product. Now this is apparent for many reasons regarding price, quality control, etc. But think about it. If I want that specific taco seasoning that I love, I MUST go to them in order to get it. In our own companies, we need to really explore more private label products as well as packaging and naming services. Even if it's a product others offer, you can position it in a way the client knows with clarity they have to come to you in order to get the 15 year Ultimate Water Heater Guarantee, or whatever it is you can put together that makes sense based on your offerings.

National Company/Local Feel – every store you walk into feels like it’s the old school neighborhood market that was like the Cheers Bar that Ted Danson represented for so many years. Each store is designed in their own signature way but it is ALWAYS tied to the local market they are serving. In Vegas, store décor is tied to gambling and glamour. In Colorado the newest store is splashed with mountains, skiing, hiking, mountain biking, etc. All of those things true Coloradans are proud of representing their lifestyle. This chain has figured out a way of becoming a part of the local community. What about your business? Regardless of how big or small your company is, do you make it feel completely dialed into and a major part of the community?

Expert Status and Product Knowledge – training and education is a flagship focus for this company. Each store that has wine and beer has at least a “sudo” sommelier on staff. They are very well versed in the products they carry and most team members eat their own products. Most stores have a dedicated tasting day and they will let you taste virtually anything in the store. How well do your technicians and sales people know your products and services? Are they able to be the expert that you potential clients really needs? Or are they just representing a sea of sameness just like all the other contractors in your market?

As you can see, we can all learn a bit from an industry that is so much different than ours. Or is it? They are providing a necessary service, focused on what the client wants, helps their team through education and training, and continues to grow by leaps and bounds. Maybe we have more in common than we think. Challenge yourself and your own company to make sure you are differentiating from everyone else in town that “has the same groceries” that you offer.


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