Why I Love Trader Joe's Parking Lots

Notoriously bemoaned, Trader Joe's parking lots are known for their small size, tight spots and limited maneuvering areas. I recently saw a link to a Buzzfeed article entitled "23 Hilariously Accurate Tweets About Trader Joe’s Parking Lots."  It contained comments like this:


These shoppers are frustrated because when they arrive at Trader Joe's they can't find parking within 5 seconds, like they can at most other grocery stores. They blame Trader Joe's for not providing them with "sufficient" parking. But, as we have shown year after year in our #BlackFridayParking campaign, the opposite is actually true. What we are used to is massively excessive parking. What Trader Joe's provides is actually "sufficient" parking--sufficient for a quick turnover between spots and for maximum use of limited space.

Sufficient, too, for Trader Joe's bottom line. As the investment firm JLL reported in 2014, "Trader Joe's sells twice as much per square foot as Whole Foods. Trader Joe's sells a whopping $1,734 per square foot [...] In comparison, Whole Foods sells $930 per square foot." 

Image of Trader Joe's, from  Wikimedia

Image of Trader Joe's, from Wikimedia

Trader Joe's has a unique business model and one key aspect of that is keeping stores small--including the parking lot. That means costs are lower for the company, and it is able to locate in dense urban areas where it knows it will have a reliable customer base. The people behind this company aren't dumb; they're pretty brilliant. They're created a truly unusual grocery store experience and built quite a bit of hype around it.

I'll be straight with you guys: I love Trader Joe's. But the truth is, so do lots of people. That's precisely why its parking lots are crowded (and why there are so many folks on the internet complaining about them, I suppose). I'm guessing most of the complainers didn't turn around and leave the store when they found the parking lot full. Rather, they waited a minute or two, saw an open spot and took it. What's a better use of time and money? A lot big enough that it could hypothetically fit the most people that would ever want to come there? Or a lot that is full more often than not, where space is maximized and customers might have to wait a couple minutes for their turn? What benefits the business and the community more?

I'd choose a small Trader Joe's lot any day over the 100+ spots available at my local Roundy's. And to all the haters: If you don't like the parking lot, try riding your bike or walking to the store instead.

(Top photo by Anthony92931)

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