TJ Maxx is using customer 'FOMO' to become a leader in gourmet food

TJ Maxx has a food section — and it’s filled with gourmet items you didn’t know you wanted.

The discount retailer has a very specific strategy when it comes to its edibles section, which is filled with items like obscure spices, seemingly random dry goods, and quirky jams, reports Bon Appétit.

TJ Maxx buys gourmet items in large quantities at a huge discount. Then, the stores purposefully understock the shelves, creating a sense of urgency for shoppers who spot items like bacon spice that they’re unlikely to see elsewhere, and certainly not at the same price.

“They do this to create a sense of FOMO,” or fear of missing out, Wharton marketing professor David Bell told Bon Appétit. Customers know that the random spice won’t be there the next time they stop by TJ Maxx to go shopping (likely for clothes, not food), and are pressured to buy ASAP.

Victoria GourmetVictoria GourmetVictoria’s Gourmet bacon spice is one of many random food items you may find on TJ Maxx’s shelves.

Buying the items from manufacturers, instead of taking overstocked food from more traditional gourmet retailers, means that TJ Maxx actually sells what customers want — if they can get it in time. As a result, the budget retailer has been able to successfully sell obscure items like Sriracha ketchup, garlic-stuffed olives with organic beetroot powder, and Himalayan pink salt at locations across the US.

It’s part of TJ Maxx’s larger strategy that’s allowing it to triumph over rival budget retailers: creating fresh deals on an items that actually appeal to customers.

“The constantly changing assortment, the excitement of finding a bargain, and the sense of urgency associated with having to secure a product before it is sold out, all give consumers a reason to regularly visit shops,”  Neil Saunders, CEO of consulting firm Conlumino, wrote in a note to clients in May. “Its products are genuine bargains which have been carefully found and selected with the customer in mind — rather than being a mish-mash of unpopular and unwanted apparel lines which constitute the tragic clearance sections of players like Macy’s and Sears.”

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