Grocery heaven

Trader Joe's to Austin? Grocery analyst says six are possible in Whole Foods backyard

Trader Joe's to Austin? Grocery analyst says six are possible in Whole Foods backyard

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Trader Joe’s, a natural and organic foods rival of Austin-based Whole Foods Market, is about to invade Texas. A total of four locations already are in the works for the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston areas. Could that mean the Austin market is on the horizon for Trader Joe’s?

Food industry analyst Phil Lempert, known as “The Supermarket Guru,” estimates the Austin area could support four to six Trader Joe’s stores.

“Residents of Austin will be dancing in the streets!” Lempert says. “Austin’s population is hip and healthy, and Trader Joe’s assortment of value, health and unique offerings is perfect for the marketplace.”

 "We’re excited about bringing Trader Joe’s to the wonderful cities, towns, and neighborhoods in and around Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and beyond. We are actively looking for sites and we’re anxious to identify some great locations … .” 

Grocery industry analyst David Livingston says a move into the Austin market makes sense for Trader Joe’s. “They have a cult-like following, and in a city like Austin, I can see them with one to three stores,” Livingston says. “They are so much smaller than Whole Foods and have a different product offering. They are sort of a treasure-hunt store for foodies.”

The Dallas Morning News has reported that the Trader Joe’s locations set for North Texas are part of an initial 10-store rollout across the state, including Austin.

Bob Goldin, executive vice president of food industry research and consulting firm Technomic Inc., says he thinks Austin will be a “great market” for Trader Joe’s and expects the retailer to perform well here. “The fact that they’re opening in other Texas markets will only help build awareness and loyalty for the chain,” Goldin says.

In a statement released in May, Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki said this about the retailer’s arrival in North Texas: “Dallas, and frankly the entire state of Texas, is a place we’ve wanted to be for a long time. We are a company that grows in a very controlled and thoughtful way in order to maintain the Trader Joe’s customer experience. We’re excited about bringing Trader Joe’s to the wonderful cities, towns, and neighborhoods in and around Dallas/Fort Worth, Houston, and beyond. We are actively looking for sites and we’re anxious to identify some great locations … .”

That statement didn’t mention Austin.

Asked about Trader Joe’s expansion plans for Austin, Mochizuki said in a Dec. 31 email, “We have nothing to confirm at this time.”

For years, Austin foodies have been pining for Trader Joe’s to come here. Speculation about the retailer staking a claim in Austin has intensified since Sprouts Farmers Market, a natural and organic grocer, said in late November that it was closing three of its six stores in the Austin area.

On Dec. 29, the Dallas Morning News reported California-based Trader Joe’s is opening stores in Dallas and Plano. The chain previously announced it will set up shop in Fort Worth and The Woodlands, a Houston suburb.

Privately held Trader Joe’s has more than 360 stores in 31 states and Washington, D.C. The retailer’s first four Texas locations are set to open this year.

Traditionally, Trader Joe’s have measured 10,000 to 15,000 square feet each. However, newer stores have been larger than 15,000 square feet. By contrast, the average store opened by Whole Foods in 2011 measured 40,000 square feet.

In an August 2010 article, Fortune magazine said Trader Joe’s “is no ordinary grocery chain. It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.”

On its website, this is how Trader Joe’s describes its retail philosophy: “At Trader Joe’s, you won’t find a lot of branded items. Instead, you’ll find unconventional and interesting products in the Trader Joe’s label as well as everyday basics. We buy products we think are winners and that’ll find a following among our customers. Sometimes it’s a product we intend to stock as long as it sells well; and sometimes we buy a product which is in limited supply, sell through it, and you won’t find it again. It’s all part of the shopping adventure at Trader Joe’s.”

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Privately owned Trader Joe’s is a sister company of Germany-based discount grocer Aldi.