While the current trend in the retail industry is for big-box store operators to go smaller, niche grocery operator Trader Joe's is pursuing the opposite strategy.
An article in the Los Angeles Times notes the chain is on a major expansion drive and in addition to opening new locations, will likely go from its current 10,000 sq. ft. to 15,000 sq. ft. model to building stores bigger than 15,000 sq. ft. to drive sales productivity.
The issue is that Trader Joe's built its reputation partly on being really good at utilizing smaller spaces. Plus, some of its long-time customers are unhappy about the chain losing some of its small-store charm, Los Angeles Times reports:
"I've driven by, and the new building looks kind of shiny and huge, which doesn't square with what Trader Joe's is in my head," said Geragos, a 42-year-old stay-at-home mom. "I'm bummed about losing the homey feel."
Trader Joe's operates at least two stores below 23rd Street in Manhattan, where Retail Traffic is based, including a traditionally small store near Union Square and a 41,000-sq. ft. megastore inside a former Barnes & Noble space in Chelsea. While this editor has never been able to withstand the super-long lines and crowded conditions at the Union Square location, the bigger store has proven much easier to navigate.
But we'd be curious to know how retail real estate insiders feel about expanded Trader Joe's.