The California-based Trader Joe’s is planning an all-out frontal assault on its Austin-based rival. Trader Joe’s announced that they will be opening a store that will be located in a new development at the Seaholm Power Plant in downtown Austin.
That’s only blocks away from Whole Foods’ flagship command and control center at Lamar and 5th.
“We are thrilled to be coming to Austin and look forward to being part of this wonderful neighborhood,” Trader Joe’s spokeswoman Alison Mochizuki told the Statesman.
Trader Joe’s already has 350 stores in 29 states, but until now, it had skipped Texas. Now, it’s making an aggressive push into Whole Foods’ home turf, opening stores in Dallas, Houston and Austin.
Both Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have a religious following. But Trader Joe’s customers are sometimes described as a cult. The Trader Joe’s brand is like Apple’s. It’s really strong. New store openings are often met with the same kind of fervor as the release of a new iPhone. Customers will line up around the block just to be the first in the door.
There are several key differences between Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s. The Trader Joe’s look and feel more closely resembles Wheatsville than Whole Foods. Whole Foods has evolved itself into the upscale organic grocery chain with well appointed mega-markets. And as we all know, it is crazy expensive. Shoppers have to tap into their retirement accounts or take out a second mortgage to get a week’s worth of groceries. They don’t call it “Whole Paycheck” for nothing. If you’re a coupon clipper, Whole Foods is not for you.
Trader Joe’s is more laid back. It’s what Whole Foods used to be in the old days. A Hawaiian shirt is the company uniform. It’s also more value oriented than Whole Foods. Low prices and deals matter. But the big difference between the two stores is the merchandising philosophy. All products at Trader Joe’s carry a Trader Joe’s label. The store finds vendors that it likes and then white labels their products. Whole Foods offers a variety of brands, including its own 365 line of foods.
Trader Joe’s stores are also smaller than most Whole Foods stores. The Austin store will be around 11,000 square feet, which is similar to the size of Wheatsville on Guadalupe. Whole Foods’ Lamar store by contrast is 80,000 square feet.
What will be interesting to watch is what Austin’s “buy local” crowd will do when faced with the option of shopping at the hometown hero or the hip new upstart.