retail news in context, analysis with attitude

The Wall Street Journal has a story about Mike Hallatt, described as a "55-year-old serial entrepreneur and Vancouver native" who decided to start bringing Trader Joe's products into Canada in 2012 and selling them as a store he calls Pirate Joe's ... completely with a fully disclosed markup and transparent business model - making Trader Joe's products available in Canada, where the company has no stores.

According to the piece, Trader Joe's management is not happy with Pirate Joe's, but Hallatt continues to make weekly trips into the US, where he hires people to buy as much as $6,000 worth of products at Trader Joe's; he says that Canadian customs agents are so used to him by now that they accept his spreadsheets as an accurate accounting of what he's bringing into the country.

The Journal writes that the single-store outlet "plans to go nationwide in Canada later this year via an online shop that will ship products anywhere from Nova Scotia to the Yukon."

Though even Hallatt seems surprised that the concept has remained viable for three years. "This thing is basically a pop-up store that has gone on too long," he says.
KC's View:
Forget about the specifics of this story. The larger lesson, I think, is how important it is to have such differentiated product that people will move heaven and earth to get it. It is easy to have the same stuff everybody else ... it is hard to define and exploit points of difference. Whatever the implications of the Pirate Joe's business for Trader Joe's, there has to be a certain sense of satisfaction that it proves out the company's essential business proposition.