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Opinion: What would it take for Springfield to get a Trader Joe’s?

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If Springfield, Missouri, wasn’t on Trader Joe’s radar before, it is now.

A media report mix-up on Feb. 22 had residents briefly hyped that Springfield was, at long last, getting a Trader Joe’s. Turns out it was Springfield, Virginia, not Springfield, Missouri, and a sigh of despair was felt throughout the Queen City. That snafu led to a mockumentary lamenting the situation by “The Mystery Hour” comedians and even a report in The New York Times, which cited “the geographical isolation created by the Ozark Mountains” as a reason for our city lacking some major companies, itself a funny statement.

What if, in a strange turn of events, this whole situation actually helps Springfield’s case for a Trader Joe’s?

A page on Trader Joe’s website, titled “Request a Trader Joe’s in My City,” calls for residents from cities like ours to simply ask the company to consider them.

“There are no guarantees, but being wanted matters to us,” the website form reads.

I have seen that form making its way around the online community, and beyond the attention this story has garnered in the media, I suspect that on Feb. 22, in particular, there was an uptick in requests for Springfield, Missouri. Just how many requests, I do not know because I did not receive an answer to that question from a Trader Joe’s spokesperson. Demographics and other data the company analyzes to select stores is being held close to the vest, as well.

The spokesperson, Public Relations Manager Nakia Rohde, said she did not have the metrics the company uses in the store site selection process available to share. She pointed me to a couple episodes from its Inside Trader Joe’s podcast in August 2022 for additional insight. It gets us closer to understanding the site selection process for the company that has 545 stores in 42 states and Washington, D.C. – of which Springfield, Virginia, is a suburb.

The podcast hosts interview Donnie Martin, vice president of real estate and construction at Trader Joe’s.

Martin says the site selection team at Trader Joe’s uses a “checks and balance system internally” to help choose new store locations.

“We look at accessibility ... we look at the size, we look at everything to really make sure that we belong there. It’s got to check every box,” Martin says in the podcast. “Twenty percent of the site submittals that we receive pass our tests and get to an internal review where we really dig in. That’s when we dive into everything.”

Of that 20%, around half become stores, Martin says. Doing the math, that would mean about one of every 10 locations that Trader Joe’s seriously considers end up getting stores.

“We could go anywhere and open a Trader Joe’s, but is it going to feel like Trader Joe’s when the customers walk in?” Martin says of the reason behind the stringent selection process.

Unfortunately, specifics aren’t discussed in the podcast. So, I did a little more research.

Analytics firm Numerator gives an estimate on demographics through a retailer snapshot of Trader Joe’s.

According to Numerator data, middle-income shoppers, those who earn $40,000-$80,000, make up the largest chunk of Trader Joe’s shoppers, at 45%. That’s followed by high income, defined as $80,000 or more, at 39%, and low income, people who make less than $40,000, at 16%.

Baby boomers account for the largest percentage of generational customers, at 32%, followed by Generation Xers, at 31%, millennials, at 29%, and Gen Zers, at 8%, according to Numerator data.

How does Springfield compare?

While not apples to apples with Numerator’s metrics, the most recent Census Bureau data puts the city’s median household income at $43,450. The data shows 15.9% of the population are ages 65 and over, with 17.4% under 18 years old and 5.1% under 5 years old.

Taking a look at Trader Joe’s store list shows the company tends to pick areas in or near major metro areas.

Going by that rubric, there could be an Ozarks regionalism play: a Trader Joe’s that would serve residents of Springfield, southwest Missouri and the tri-state area, within a reasonable driving distance.

With the information that’s available, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that we could eventually get a Trader Joe’s store. Still, there’s a lot of unknown factors that go into the site selection process.

For example, does the company track its competitors’ store locations in that determination process? Are crime statistics considered? There are, I’m sure, any number of metrics the Trader Joe’s team watches closely to find ideal locations. They’re unlikely to divulge that competitive information, even if we really, really want to know.

Going back to that store request form, if “being wanted” is indeed one of those metrics, continued buzz and hype on our collective part in Springfield would help our cause.

I’ll leave you with a social media post from the city of Springfield to Trader Joe’s: “Can’t we just talk about this a little bit?”

Springfield Business Journal Digital Editor Geoff Pickle can be reached at


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