When it comes to grocery chains, Trader Joe's isn't your average Joe. With some 375 stores in 30-plus states, the company offers upscale grocery fare such as health foods, organic produce, and nutritional supplements. To keep costs down, its stores have no service departments and average about 12,000-15,000 sq. ft. The company's specialty is its line of more than 2,000 private-label products (70% of sales), including beverages (its signature Charles Shaw brand wine sells for $2 a bottle), soup, snacks, and frozen items. Started by Joe Coulombe as a Los Angeles convenience store chain in 1958, Trader Joe's is owned by German billionaire Karl Albrecht, who founded the ALDI food chain with his late brother Theo.
Privately-owned Trader Joe's rang up an estimated $9.5 billion in sales in fiscal 2012 (ends June), up about $1 billion from a year earlier.
Originally a West Coast company -- more than a third of its stores are in California --Trader Joe's under CEO Dan Bane has been aggressively adding stores along the corridor between Boston and Washington, D.C. The company is expanding into new markets, including Florida, Texas, and upstate New York. (Trader Joe's entered Texas in mid-2012 with stores in Forth Worth and Houston, It expects to open about a dozen more in the state over the next two years.) In fiscal 2012 (ends June) it added just 14 stores but plans to open more than 30 in the coming year. Deep-discount giant ALDI has taught Trader Joe's a lesson in offering a limited assortment of specialty foods and low prices. Trader Joe's and other non-traditional grocery retailers, such as Costco Wholesale and organic giant Whole Foods, have been adept at stealing market share from the big supermarket chains. Trader Joe's exotic mix of private-label and imported specialty products and hip vibe draws shoppers into its stores despite its limited selection relative to traditional grocery chains. Private-label brands include Trader Ming's (Asian/fusion foods), Trader Giotto's (Italian fare), Trader Juan's (Latin/Mexican foods), and Trader Darwin's (vitamins and supplements). Trader Joe's also offers take-home meals, a popular draw for time-pinched consumers.
Trader Joe's co-owner Theo Albrecht died in July 2010 at the age of 88. His brother and co-owner Karl is 90. – less