When you walk into a Trader Joe’s past the beautiful cut flowers and shelves full of artisan breads back to the small sample area staffed by a friendly employee dressed in jeans and a Hawaiian shirt you feel like you are walking into your neighborhood grocer. Employees are all kind of laid back, everyone seems at home and, if you are a regular, chances are they know your name. It’s just that kind of a place.
On the surface, that is.
Truth is Trader Joe’s is big business for a trust owned by by mega discount chain Aldi’s co-founder Theo Albrecht, Sr.
“Aldi has its roots in Germany and operates 7,500 stores internationally in a dozen countries. The first U.S. store opened in 1976. Aldi has annual U.S. sales of about $5 billion, according to business research company Hoovers.”
Albrecht bought Trader Joe’s in 1979 when it was a small California specialty grocery store chain. It was a very good investment for Albrecht. In 2004 sales “were estimated [at] $2.1 billion, or $1,132 per square foot, twice that of traditional supermarkets, according to the Food Institute, a nonprofit research group in Elmwood Park, N.J.
Trader Joe’s magic is a combination of its low prices and “feel good” atmosphere – plus, in the words of one consultant, “they have no competition.”
Giving Joe and the Albrecht Family Trust their due, it must be said that Trader Joe’s is known for treating its employees better than the average grocery chain. This fact makes their reluctance to use their leverage to make a statement urging better conditions for farmworkers all the more difficult to swallow.
What do you say Joe? Are you going to do the right thing?