Friday, April 1, 2022

Becoming Trader Joe

The founder of Trader Joe's has written a book about how he built his company. Becoming Trader Joe was fantastic, and I say this as someone who is ambivalent about the brand, having never stepped in any of their stores.

The reader gets a lot of information about how the founder thought through various choices that confronted the business, particularly in its early life. Coulombe faced questions like:

- Do we need to meet all the consumer's grocery needs or should we focus on what we can be good at?
- How do we tell what we're good at? (Coulombe liked to use gross margin dollars per square foot, leading the retailer to specialize extensively in wine until regulatory changes allowed price competition.)
- What do we do in-store vs out-source (serving sandwiches and freshly-squeezed orange juice were part of the store's attraction)
- Who is our target demographic? How do we reach them?

The book also serves as a good history lesson, as Joe has been at this for a long time. I either did not know or had forgotten about fair-trade laws, and their obliteration in the 1970s that dramatically changed the landscape for retailers. Coulombe has a fair share of anecdotes about regulations (and how they affected his business) that will make you wonder if many of the rules our politicians have instituted don't do more harm than good.

If you're a retailer or retail enthusiast, I think you will love this book.

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