Trader Joe's Won't Offer Grocery Pickup or Delivery During the Pandemic—Here's Why

We're bummed, but their reasoning is sound.

Unfortunate news, fellow Trader Joe's fans. The supermarket's executives just revealed that—despite a massive surge in demand for online grocery services—they will not be offering grocery pickup or delivery options to shoppers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The update came via the latest "Inside Trader Joe's" podcast, hosted by Tara Miller, TJ's Marketing Director, and Matt Sloan, Vice President of Marketing. The theme of the episode is far from grocery delivery—this week's podcast is called "The Coffee Cuppers Guide to Trader Joe's." But before they jump into all the offerings TJ's has in the way of helping you make coffee at home, Miller takes a moment to acknowledge the new normal. "Before we begin this episode of 'Inside Trader Joe's,' we want to take a moment to talk about the current state of things," she starts. "As we discussed in our last episode, COVID-19 continues to affect us all, the crew in each of our stores continue to do incredible work every day, and we're grateful for their efforts to support each other and the communities they serve."

At this point, Sloan chimes in to reiterate that the company's key focus has always been their crew members—of which they have over 50,000—and customers. "And in fact, it's that focus that provides the answer to one of the most frequently asked questions we're hearing right now," he says.

"Customers are asking if given current circumstances, we're planning on offering delivery or curbside pickup," Miller says. "We understand the impulse and we know that some other retailers are offering these services. We also know those offerings don't always translate into positive results."

Sloan explains that creating both an online shopping system for curbside pickup and setting up the infrastructure necessary for grocery delivery is a massive undertaking. "It's something that takes months or years to plan, build and implement and it requires tremendous resources," he says. "Well, at Trader Joe's, the reality is that over the last couple of decades we've invested those resources in our people rather than build an infrastructure that eliminates the need for people."

Trader Joe's actually offered grocery delivery services in New York City for 10 years but eliminated the option in 2019 because it was too costly. "Instead of passing along unsustainable cost increases to our customers, removing delivery will allow us to continue offering outstanding values—quality products for great everyday prices, and to make better use of valuable space in our stores," Trader Joe's representative Kenya Friend-Daniel told Business Insider.

The announcement came at a time when many other grocery stores—including Walmart, Whole Foods, Kroger, and Aldi—started investing heavily in online shopping, and the start of the pandemic has fueled the demand for delivery services tenfold.

But when it comes to Trader Joe's, the bottom line is that the costs of building online grocery services are so high that the infrastructure for such an undertaking could "eliminate [their] need for people." To avoid such circumstances, TJ's is allocating its available resources to hiring more crew members instead. "[All] while other retailers [are] cutting staff and adding things like self-checkout, curbside pickup, and outsourcing delivery options," explains Miller. "We know that this period of distancing will end and when it does, our crew will be in our stores to help you find your next favorite product, just as they've always been."

You can still visit your local Trader Joe's location—so long as it isn't one of the stores temporarily closed due to COVID. Just make sure to follow the proper guidelines for grocery shopping safely during the pandemic.

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