Looking at:

  • Safeway
  • Amazon Go Grocery
  • QFC
  • Whole Foods
  • PCC Community Markets
  • Fred Meyer
  • Costco
  • Trader Joe’s

I’m probably going to have a focus on pricing but I’ll look into this criteria as well:

  • delivery/location availability
  • quality
  • stock
  • brand selection

Pricing

The pricing is clear cut for the high-end supermarkets but it is more mixed below since prices will vary based on different tradeoffs. PCC Community Markets is by far the most expensive (more expensive than Whole Foods) and Whole Foods is a close second. After that I would say it is generally QFC and then the rest. The reasonign for grouping the rest together is that they have the capacity to be cheaper than one another but you give up something. In the case of Trader Joe’s they can have cheaper product but it is at the expense of both stock and brand selection. You can walk into a Trader Joe’s to get a certain item to see it is all out. They carry more limited quantities than a normal supermarket and if they are out, you cannot buy it. Costco can be cheaper, but it also forces you to buy in bulk and for some items that have a short shelf-life, this is a huge downside. You can’t buy a large quantity of meat if it will expire shortly after. (even if it is cheaper per /lb, you overall paid more)

Most Expensive

  • PCC Community Markets
  • Whole Foods
  • QFC
  • Safeway, Trader Joe’s, Costco, Amazon Go Grocery, Fred Meyer

I’m not going to delve into Safeway, QFC, Costco, or Fred Meyer because they are very stereotypical supermarkets just with different price points.

What is PCC Community Markets

I had no idea what PCC Community Markets was until I went to the one in Fremont. Then they opened one in Bellevue. Up until that point I thought Whole Foods was the most expensive sueprmarket you could find. I was proven wrong.

PCC is a co-op that is and has a membership program for $60. It’s exclusive to the Pacific Northwest and

The Cost of Shopping at Whole Foods

Whole Foods is known to be expensive to shop at. Amazon’s acquistion of Whole Foods basically segmented them to take the “top” segment of the shoppers willing to go for non-GMO products and expensive product for the relief of getting good quality.

I like a lot of their stuff, it just has a lot of overhead from being held to meticulous standards. A lot of high end products that would probably flop because they are too expensive or pretentious for Safeway or QFC appear in Whole Foods. They definitely capture the attention of people looking for high quality product selection.

The Simplicity of Trader Joe’s

I like Trader Joe’s because of its product selection. That is a oxymoron because it simultaneously has low product selection and unique product selection at the same time. You can arrive on a day when they ran out of bagels, or some item you really enjoy, but they do have some niche product in another aisle. That is how the store is structured to keep costs low and keep the most popular products on the shelves.

It also helps that since Trader Joe’s works directly with manufacturers a lot of their products are actually pretty good, it is just that it is under the “Trader Joe’s” label. There is not a lot of choice on which brand of a certain product you can buy, but the choices for diverse products is actually one of the nuances that make it an interesting shopping experience.

Trader Joe’s also has the special “seasonal” items. Christmas and Hannukah themed items for the holidays. New arrival items. These add a fascination with goign in and seeing something you’ve never seen before. It adds to the reasons to shop at Trader Joe’s, where the supply is always seemingly low, but has this novel effect whereas other traditional supermarkets having low supply is a detriment. Trader Joe’s mantra is definitely “less is more” as it makes the shopping experience streamlined and succint.

Trader Joe’s is one of the few supermarkets not doing delivery. I can probably see them during covid hurting due to lack of shoppers/need to limit amount of shoppers in at once.

The Curious Case of Amazon Go Grocery

Amazon Go Grocery is by far the most unique supermarket of the bunch. Theoretically it can cut costs from competitors due to less staff needed to run the store (no checkout aisles, just pick up items and walk out). This isn’t always the case.

Limited Selection + Cheap Prices + Whole Foods Prices

I found on average the Amazon Go Grocery prices are much better on produce (berries, fruit, bananas) but much worse on brand-name items like frozen foods, snacks, and others. The selection is also much lower than even Trader Joe’s since Amazon Go Groceries are limited due to the fact that you can pick up items and walk out with them.

The other curious thing is that Amazon Go Grocery has NO online flyer or price postings. That means you don’t know what price you will get before walking in. Sometimes I can get a bunch of bananas for $0.19 and a 6oz of raspberries for $1.67. Other times the bunch of bananas are $0.95 and the 6oz of raspberries is $2.50. Those prices are drastically different if you go to the Amazon Go Grocery for the much cheaper produce.

Less than Ideal Locations

If you do venture out to the Amazon Go Grocery you have two choices (at the time of writing). There is one in Capitol Hill in Seattle and one in Overlake Redmond area. That’s it. Cap Hill’s location is convenient if you are in downtown Seattle, but the Redmond location is a little out of the way. If you do decide to go out that far, you would hope they have good pricing (but you have no idea of telling beforehand)

Amazon has the Amazon Go Grocery… and Whole Foods?

This makes sense on a few levels. Amazon Go Grocery can act as a lower cost supermarket that doesn’t directly compete with Whole Foods. The whole “walk in, grab stuff, walk out” mantra is a marketing thing in its own right and people can use it as a quicker, possibly cheaper alternative to Whole Foods.

The difference is that they don’t 100% do this. In my experience they sell a lot of the Organic 365 brand you see at Whole Foods a lot. It is usually slightly cheaper than if you went to Whole Foods for these products. This is actually brilliant because like I had said at Amazon Go Grocery you really can’t tell what prices are beforehand, and since some of the prices on items are good you may feel compelled to pick them up at Amazon Go Grocery. In reality you are shopping “Whole Foods products” at a price that is slightly lower than Whole Foods (but still pretty high). I think that’s a win for Amazon.