retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Forbes has a column that looks to break down the attributes that differentiate Trader Joe's. An excerpt:

"Some of the reasons why are obvious and contribute to TJ’s rising-star status among grocery chains, including a respectable selection of sensibly priced offerings and an emphasis on freshness. The stores are also designed to evoke a different sort of feeling from customers. They’re smaller than typical grocery stores, purposefully staying on the medium to small side at every location, which helps keep things cozy.

"And instead of swallowing customers in a sea of color conformity, TJ’s hits you with a splash of color and texture-everything.  There’s cedar, there’s brick, there’s bamboo. The colors are vibrant. The scripting on store signs is interesting to read, even if it’s just pointing you to a display of dark chocolate ginger cookies. The setting is comfortably stimulating.

"All of that feeds into an overall uplifting effect, but what really makes shopping at TJ’s a boost for the brain are those who work there.  Trader Joe’s employees are different, and the difference they bring to their work changes the psychological experience of the store’s customers. There are emotional contagions in the air at TJ’s and its customers catch an infectious psychosocial buzz."
KC's View:
The column concludes that one of the important factors in creating these emotional contagions is hiring people who care, and then creating a community of employees who view themselves as working on pieces of an interlocking puzzle, rather than on individual, disconnected tasks.

This strikes me as an enormously important observation, and the kind of thing that can, in fact, create a differentiated culture ... and a differentiated retail culture can be the kind of thing that compels a consumer to choose one store over another.

From my own experience, I can tell you that pretty much every time I've lined up to check out at my local Trader Joe's, the checkout person has asked me if I found everything I was looking for ... a simple question, an expression of interest, and yet one that gets asked rarely in other food stores in which I have shopped.