The Friday Checkout is a weekly column providing more insight on the news, rounding up the announcements you may have missed and sharing what’s to come.
The unfolding drama between Trader Joe’s and the small but growing group of its associates taking steps to formally organize took an ominous turn this week, as labor officials accused the grocer of engaging in anti-union tactics.
In a blistering statement on Thursday, the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union (UFCW) linked the sudden decision by Trader Joe’s earlier this month to close a wine shop in Manhattan to what the UFCW said were discussions workers at the location had about potentially unionizing as part of the organization.
The UFCW’s accusation against Trader Joe’s came days after workers at a Trader Joe’s store in Minneapolis last week voted by a large margin to join the fledgling union Trader Joe’s United. That election followed a July vote by workers at a Trader Joe’s in Hadley, Massachusetts, to become the first group of Trader Joe’s associates to join the newly formed union.
According to the UFCW, workers at the wine store — which ironically was located in New York’s Union Square neighborhood — had recently been asked by managers about their stance on unionization. “Trader Joe’s then abruptly closed the shop in the middle of the night without a formalized plan to open another location,” the UFCW said, adding that it “is ready to pursue all legal action, including filing charges against Trader Joe’s for their shameless union busting.”
The UFCW said workers at the wine store were preparing to publicly announce plans to file for a union election, adding that it believes Trader Joe’s took preemptive action in an effort to stop the workers from proceeding. The union demanded that Trader Joe’s reopen the store and said it would “assist workers in getting jobs in union stores” if the grocer “fails to meet their commitments to these workers.”
In a statement sent to Gothamist, a Trader Joe’s spokesperson said the company supports the right of workers to unionize and decided to close the wine store because it was looking for a way to “optimize” its only New York state wine license.
In case you missed it
Albertsons trials self-checkout-only store model
The checkout process is evolving across the grocery industry, and an Albertsons in Boise, Idaho, is pushing the trend ahead with the launch of a self-checkout-only store.
The Boise location is the second Albertsons to convert to this system as part of the company’s pilot program, according to BoiseDev.
The store is laid out with an array of over two dozen self-checkout stations categorized by the number of items a customer has in their cart. Albertsons employees are on stand-by to assist shoppers who need help processing their purchases.
Albertsons is not the first grocery retailer to test out the self-checkout only model. Earlier this year, Dollar General announced it was piloting the concept at several stores, while Walmart began testing a self-checkout-only location in Fayetteville, Arkansas, in June 2020.
Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s Club maintain pandemic gains
Despite the ongoing rise in food and gas prices due to inflation, foot traffic at Costco, BJ’s Wholesale Club and Sam’s Club is up significantly compared with pre-pandemic levels, Placer.ai reported this week.
In terms of year-over-year foot-traffic, all three retailers remained below 2021 levels. However, compared to 2019, Costco saw a 3.4% increase in foot traffic for July 2022, BJ’s posted a 7.5% jump and Sam’s Club had a 10.5% increase.
Placer.ai notes Sam’s Club appears to be excelling compared to its two competitors in recent data, and this may be because of the lower-income bracket customers Sam’s Club primarily caters to.
The world’s largest plant-based grocery store is now open
PlantX, a plant-based product grocer, has opened a 6,000-square-foot grocery store in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood and is the city’s first plant-only supermarket, according to The Beet. The company says the store is the largest of its kind in the world.
The store, known as XMarket Uptown, is the sixth PlantX grocery store in the U.S., with the first one in Venice, California. XMarket will carry hard-to-find vegan products as well as private label goods.
The goal of PlantX is to provide a one-stop shopping experience to plant-based eaters and educate consumers on plant-only diets and their environmental benefits.
Number of the week: 9.2%
That’s the increase in spending at grocery stores in July compared to the same period in 2021, according to estimated data released on Wednesday by the U.S. Census Bureau. Grocery sales rose 0.2% in July compared to the prior month, while overall retail sales were flat on a month-to-month basis.
As overall inflation moderates, grocery spending and food inflation are both still ticking upward. Food-at-home prices jumped 13.1% in July on a year-over-year basis and the food-at-home index rose 1.3% in July compared with the prior month, according to data from the Consumer Price Index.
Is Dollar General still seeing dollar signs?
The discounter announces its second-quarter earnings on Thursday morning. Dollar General surprised Wall Street with its Q1 results in May with better-than-expected results against a backdrop of retailers struggling amid high inflation. It will be interesting to see if the nearly $1.3 million fine the company is facing for worker safety violations at stores in Georgia will come up during the call.