Grocery shopping has looked pretty different in the last few weeks in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. Long lines, new hours, and social distancing regulations have sprung up at many of your favorite stores, and you're probably used to hearing about it from a customers' perspective. Now, grocery giant Trader Joe's is sharing what it's been like behind the scenes as stores adapt to new shopping patterns and increased demand.
In the newest episode of the podcast Inside Trader Joe's, vice president of marketing for the chain Matt Sloan and marketing director Tara Miller said that they wanted to give fans a look behind the curtain after positive feedback they received after touching on coronavirus-related topics in a previous episode. First, they explained why so many customers saw empty shelves as the beginning of the pandemic hitting the U.S., calling it a "shock to our system."
"Our stores were already busy and already selling a lot of product and to have, in some cases, that volume double, well it just ground the support system to a halt. If you have more truckloads than you can process, more deliveries than you can accept, things just get clogged up. And that's what happened," Matt said.
They explained that their supply teams had to get creative, even buying up and selling products that fit their specifications but that didn't have the traditional "Trader Joe's" label on them. Tara categorized it as a type of "panic buy."
"The buying team was calm and methodical and really looking at ‘what do we need’ and ‘how can we best fill that need.' And it turns out by looking in places other than the usual places. You might see a five-pound bag of rice where we previously only sold a one-pound bag of rice," Matt said.
One of those places? Hotel chains. Tara shared that Trader Joe's struck a deal with a "large international hotel chain" to buy individual rolls of toilet paper to sell because that hotel chain wasn't getting as many guests as usual and had a supply.
"We're selling that toilet paper from the major hotel chain for what, 69 cents a roll?" Tara said.
Tara also explained the balance stores like Trader Joe's have to strike between what they need right now, and what they know people love.
"Right now, we are not selling as much, let's say, refrigerated product. So like dips and salads and fresh produce and things like that," she said:
We're not selling as much of that as we normally do. But if we suddenly tell our suppliers, 'Mmm, we don't want that right now,' it's entirely possible that supply chain could disappear. Because if we're not ordering a product, then they are not making the product. And then when we do want the product, will they still be able to make the product?
The whole podcast is a lesson in supply and demand and is certainly interesting for those of us who have been left scratching our heads after seeing empty shelves. You can listen to the podcast here.
You Might Also Like