Los Angeles: Trader Joe's

If I had to pick one thing that stood out the most from our visit to Trader Joe’s, it would definitely be the culture of the company. When we first walked into the headquarters and saw CEO Dan Bane and all the other employees wearing Hawaiian shirts, I knew the site visit was going to be anything but ordinary. At every glance, luscious plants lined the tops of cubicles and the walls were decorated with pictures of the 505 stores that now exist throughout the United States. When we arrived to the conference room, we were all pleased to find personalized name badges that mimicked the same ones employees wear in the actual stores.

Dan Bane and a few other executives within the company walked our group through the history of Trader Joe’s and how it has grown to what it is today. They attributed Trader Joe’s success to a firm dedication to its values. The company’s “Values Guide” includes 7 driving principles: integrity, being product-driven, producing a wow customer experience, no bureaucracy, being a national chain of neighborhood stores, kaizen (or continuous improvement), and treating the store as their brand. One of the things that also makes them unique is 90% of their products are private label, meaning they are Trader Joe’s brand. This not only translates to lower prices for customers, but it also means Trader Joe’s has a lot more freedom to select unique new products from around the world. In fact, they have a dedicated “innovation” team that travels the world exploring new cultures and seeking out new items to introduce into stores. Afterwards, we enjoyed a delicious lunch consisting entirely of items sold at Trader Joe’s stores.

After lunch, our group left headquarters and went to an actual Trader Joe’s store. Guided by leaders from corporate, we walked around and learned about the behind-the-scenes work that goes into the overall in-store experience. We found out that all the signs in the stores are handmade, and the decor on the walls is customized to the unique location of the store. Each store is also run by what the company calls a captain. These captains are given significant autonomy over the selection and placement of products in their store, meaning no two Trader Joe’s are exactly the same. We finished the day off by doing some shopping of our own with gift cards and shopping totes the company generously gave us. I walked away with a greater appreciation not just for the food that Trader Joe’s sells, but the mission and culture that the company so strongly lives out each and every day.


Allison Heithoff (BBA '21)
Accounting, Information Systems