- Trader Joe’s and Wegmans are two grocers that both have cult followings.
- Both grocery stores also have unique store designs and fill their shelves with their own in-house brands.
- We visited both stores to see which was better and found that Wegmans, though the smaller chain, offered a superior store experience due to its expansive and high-quality hot food offerings.
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On the surface, Trader Joe’s and Wegmans seem to have a lot in common. Both chains focus on store brands and have energised fans that rave about them.
With 488 stores across the country, Trader Joe’s is larger than Wegmans, which has just 101 stores in New England and the mid-Atlantic regions. But despite the disparity in size, both chains have cultivated some of the most loyal followings in the industry.
Trader Joe’s has some of the best sales per square footage in the grocery industry and prime locations in big cities like New York are regularly packed during peak shopping times. New Wegmans stores regularly draw thousands of fans – or Wegmaniacs – to their opening days. Most recently,more than 25,000 people showed up for the opening day of the newest Wegmans store, located in Brooklyn, New York, in October.
Beyond the hype, both grocery chains are known for their quality in-house brands that generally help keep prices low.
Naturally, this is the head-to-head we’ve all been waiting for, the battle of the smaller, thematically-infused grocery chains.
After visiting both stores, the underdog was the clear winner. Wegmans won us over with its exceptional customer service and store design. But the real kicker was the numerous hot and ready-made takeout options.
Here’s what we saw:
First, we stopped a Trader Joe’s in Manhattan’s Upper West Side neighbourhood.
Trader Joe’s is meant to look like a shipping port and we saw design elements reinforcing this theme from the moment we arrived.
Inside, the store kept up the nautical theme with some light wood shelving structures that looked similar to shipping containers.
And instead of a classic “Employees Only” sign, we found a section labelled “Crew Quarters.”
As we wandered through the store, we also occasionally heard the tolling of a shipping bell, which indicated a customer in need of assistance.
The produce section boasted a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Here too, the seafarer theme was pervasive. This corn was sitting in a crate that looked like it had just been loaded off a cargo ship.
And in many cases, the prices were extraordinarily low. These bananas were only $US0.19 each.
Single avocados were going for $US1.79 each, so we opted for this $US4.99 bunch of miniature avocados instead.
The garlic at Trader Joe’s was also super cheap because of the company’s decision to eliminate the plastic packaging around some food to help the company eliminate one million pounds of plastic in its stores in 2019.
Source: Trader Joe’s
Next, we headed to the aisles of packaged food, where we were delighted to see what appeared to be some hand-painted signs in some of the displays.
Almost every item we found was from Trader Joe’s brand. Instead of the name-brand Honey Nut Cheerios, we found Honey Nut O’s.
Though it was somewhat upsetting to not have that name-brand choice, Trader Joe’s products seemed almost identical to name-brand products in some cases. And they were generally super cheap.
For meals, there was a plethora of yummy-looking options in the frozen section …
… and some raw meat cuts as well. We even found a nice supply of kosher chicken.
There weren’t many options for ready-made food. We did, however, find a cute little station where we could taste some products near the back of the store.
And though there wasn’t an official bakery in the store, we found some delicious-looking cupcakes that looked ready to eat.
At the checkout area, the line was long but it moved surprisingly fast. Here, employees raised a numbered paddle to signify their lane was open.
We opted for brown paper bags at checkout but were informed that we could have been entered into a raffle to win a Trader Joe’s gift card if we had brought our own reusable bags.
Overall, we enjoyed the nautical experience of Trader Joe’s. The low prices and endearing store experience were the greatest strengths of the store.
Next, we went to the new Wegmans store in Brooklyn, New York, which recently opened at the end of October.
From the moment we entered the store, we knew we were in for a completely different experience.
Like Trader Joe’s, Wegmans is designed according to a theme. In this case, the store is meant to look and feel like a European open-air market.