Let’s talk grocery stores for a minute


Have you been to a Trader Joe’s lately?

I remember when they opened on my birthday in Olympia a few years ago. We stayed away for weeks knowing we wouldn’t be able to get into the parking lot. When we finally did go, we had to circle the lot a few times, park far away and then once inside, you had to walk. And keep walking. There were so many people it was like being in a guided art exhibit where you are allowed to linger only a few seconds on each piece. The aisles were jammed and in perpetual motion.

That is a grocery retailer’s dream scenario. Not so much for a consumer. 

I shop mainly through Amazon Prime because of a few factors: I hate crowds and we live in a remote area, which is great for that peaceful, easy feeling but not so much when you are out of toilet paper.

Grocery news is endlessly fascinating to me (I am odd like that) so after I wrote about how Hobby Lobby is coming to Puyallup, I noticed several of the Facebook commenters were wondering about Trader Joe’s, which got me to thinking about how they don’t have a lot of presence south of Seattle.

So I wrote about that.

Then I came across some news that Walmart has training academies at three sites in this state as part of its $2.7 billion better-shopping-experience initiative. So I wrote about that. 

Then merely one week after my “Why are most Trader Joe’s in our area in Seattle?” piece, this bombshell is dropped at the crack of dawn by Amazon June 16.

We’ve got ourselves a grocery war. Now that Amazon is entering the brick and mortar grocery market with already-established 400+ stores in U.S., Canada and the U.K., they’re in it to possibly win it.

Every retail chain is in the fight of its life now, which is why the spokespersons for most of those retailers gave me the “no comment” or nothing at all as of midday Friday. Except for one.


They are coming out swinging and when you call them, they get back to you within the hour.

Long story short: They feel good about their position with their thousands of stores already in place, etc. etc.

(UPDATE: Kroger also later sent in a statement, pretty much the same as Walmart.)

No one wins in an all-Amazon world. Another angle, not making the screaming headlines Friday, offers something else for shoppers to consider.

Amazon reportedly was granted a patent that could block you from doing a price comparison (“showrooming”) online while in an Amazon store using that store’s Wi-Fi, according to digital  tech news site The Verge.

(They point out you could still work around it by using your own carrier’s data plan to go online with your phone, but still …)

But don’t be fooled. If Walmart had that technology, or Target, they’d file a patent, too.

Meanwhile, have you seen the price of Trader Joe’s instant coffee on Amazon? That makes me want to go back to the store.




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