Store layout changes at the downtown Chicago Trader Joe’s


When I walked into Trader Joe’s last weekend, something was different. Actually, everything is more like it: they had moved virtually every section somewhere else — only the checkout lanes and a few other areas remained intact. There was no signage explaining the change, so I finally asked a staff member about it.

According to the employee I spoke with, the change was for the downtown Chicago store only. The goal was to optimize the store for walk-in customers, rather than people who arrive by car, since the former group is much larger. Apparently, they had this backwards when the store opened several years ago. No matter the reasons, a change of this magnitude is bound to annoy some customers, and they could have done a much better job communicating what changed and why.

Here are a few steps they could have taken to tell customers about the new store layout:

– A few weeks before the change, put up signs advising people that the store layout will be changing, along with some customer-centric reasons why it’s taking place.

– Once the change has been made, update the signage to explain what changed and why.

– Assign several employees to work the entrance areas, so that confused customers can ask where their favorite products are.

– Give out a map that shows the new store layout, along with a brief explanation of the rationale behind the changes.

This sounds like a lot of work, but it’s probably quite small compared to the process of moving an entire store around. As it stands, the way Trader Joe’s handled the Chicago change left a lot to be desired — and I bet the sales of many products will suffer while customers get re-oriented. Hopefully they can use a slightly more intelligent approach next time, and be able to reap the benefits of the new layout without causing a large disruption for customers during the transition period.