Trader Joe’s has become a multi-billion dollar national chain partly through its ability to find cheap real estate, skip name brands and smartly manage its supply chain. It’s also due to its workforce management practices. Below, excerpts from a book Trader Joe’s Adventure, review the company’s management compensation, encouragement of multitasking, screening and wages, careful use of money, fun culture, sense that its people are its brand, and communication style.
Our focus with this case is on immersing students in the fundamentals of organizational culture. Organizational culture is defined as a complex set of shared beliefs, ...view middle of the document...
"Hi. How are you today?" asks a smiling, Hawaiian shirted stock clerk as I enter the store.
"Fine. Just looking around," I reply.
"Great. Let me know if you need anything. We’ve got some great products in," he says, bouncing down the aisle and straightening out the shelves as he goes along.
At the back of the store, a perky, raven-haired woman behind a kiosk that looks like a B-movie version of a beachfront bar in the tropics is sampling a vegetable medley.
"You’ve got to try this one. I sautéed it with some chicken and the kids loved it," she tells a young mother with a four-year-old squirming in the back of the cart.
"You can really use anything with it. If she doesn’t like it, bring it back," she adds spooning samples into little plastic cups for other customers who are starting to appear.
Twenty minutes and three more "Can I help yous?" later, I reach the register, where a teenage girl is bagging groceries for an elderly woman and her husband. "Are you going to be all right, or can I get you some help with the cart?" she asks, as the woman shakily maneuvers toward the exit.
She then turns to me. "Hi. How are you today? Did you find everything you need?"
I assure her that I did. "Aren’t these great?" she asks, scanning my bag of peanut butter–filled pretzels. As she hands me change from my $20 bill, she actually looks me in the eye and says sincerely, "Have a nice day!"
Exchanges like these are more the rule than the exception at Trader Joe’s, where store employees go out of their way to engage customers in conversation and, in a nice way, tout some of the store’s new items. In many respects, this kind of attention is the polar opposite of what consumers have come to expect from conventional supermarkets, where turnover is high, customer service is virtually nonexistent, and employees often spend more time complaining about their jobs than doing them.
Much has been said about the quality and value of Trader Joe’s unique array of products, the fun shopping environment with the retro feel of a mom-and-pop store, the company’s strong relationships with suppliers, and the creativity and tenacity with which it searches out items from around the world for one of the industry’s most distinctive and successful private label programs. Without question, all of these things are an essential part of what makes Trader Joe’s such a thriving retailer when much larger chains are struggling to survive.
But there’s a saying in retail circles that the last 100 feet are the hardest. Every effort can be made to heighten the efficiency of the supply chain and get products from the manufacturer to the retailer’s back door in the most cost-effective way possible. Yet, if in-store execution is shoddy, retailers simply end up shooting themselves in the foot.
A big part of this execution--or the last 100 feet--at Trader Joe’s is its employees, people who like what they do, go out of their way to help...