Trader Joe's Had a Genius (and Hilarious) Way to Get More Toilet Paper for Their Stores
Trader Joe’s just released their latest podcast, updating fans on their supply chain and work they’ve been doing to donate surplus groceries to nonprofit organizations. One interesting tidbit they revealed? How they’ve managed to stay stocked with toilet paper when so many stores were running out (turns out, it wasn’t just panic buying that resulted in the toilet paper shortage).
As you might imagine, trying to figure out what to order during a pandemic that has changed people’s shopping habits drastically, might be a little bit tricky. So when Trader Joe’s was contacted by a hotel chain executive about having extra product that they weren’t using—their buyer saw an opportunity for toilet paper.
Within 10 days they had individual rolls of toilet paper, ready to sell—that were originally intended to be in hotel guest rooms (if you’ve been to a TJ’s recently you’ve probably seen stacks of them next to their regular packages of toilet paper—when those are in stock).
The problem? Hotel toilet paper doesn’t have a barcode the way that most groceries do. The rolls were easy enough to buy and get to the store—but then how do you sell them? According to Matt Sloan, TJ’s marketing and product guy, “For a lot of retail businesses, that would be a make or break deal. But we figured out that, you know what, our crew is smart, they're capable, we can figure out how to do this. We can ring it up manually. And that's what we've been doing.”
What keeps the toilet paper on brand? The low price. TJ’s is selling single rolls for just $0.69, which is a bargain compared to what other places are offering a roll for.
Clever crew members in Massachusetts even created a sign letting customers know that their trips may be canceled, but you could still enjoy, “a hotel toilet paper experience in your own bathroom.” Nothing like a little TP humor to make you smile during all the COVID-19 craziness.
The store is also hopeful that their regular toilet paper will be back in stock regularly starting in early May. Their supplier was able to ramp up production, but they can only move so fast. Hopefully between that, their supply chain resourcefulness and people buying only what they need (not buying in a frenzy) toilet paper will be in stock when you need it.
What else did they announce in their podcast episode? Because of the shift in people’s shopping habits, the store hasn’t been selling as much salads and fresh produce. But instead of wasting it, or terminating their contracts with suppliers (which might mean when things normalize there wouldn’t be a producer to buy from), they’re working with local nonprofits to get that food into the hands of people who need it. They have over 700 nonprofit partners. In 2019, Trader Joe’s donated almost $384 million in food and beverage. Since March of this year, TJ’s has donated more than $51 million in food, or around 12 million meals to people who needed food assistance.