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Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

Why is Trader Joe’s hiding stuffed animals in its stores?

Author: Tom Rayan 

Source: Retail Wire 

Last week, People magazine profiled Trader Joe’s practice of hiding stuffed animals in most of its stores for kids to find and earn prizes.

The story came after an anonymous Trader Joe’s manager on an “Ask Me Anything” Reddit thread revealed that each store has a stuffed animal “hiding somewhere.” The manager elaborated, “It’s really just for kids to run around and find the missing animal, and they get a treat. Kids seem to LOVE it and parents go along with it, too.”

Social media threads show the practice has been going on for over a decade. The stuffed animals have included penguins, whales, monkeys and donkeys. Each is identified with a Trader Joe’s “crew member” name tag.

Fresh Thyme Farmers Market, which is part of Meijer, similarly hides a red tractor in its store that kids are encouraged to find for a treat.

News of the programs comes as several retailers have discontinued in-store childcare services and kids’ play areas in part because parents are looking for ways to use the shopping experience to teach their kids about nutrition, different foods or other lessons, such as colors.

Other ways stores are trying to keep children engaged during the shopping experience include: 

  • Miniature shopping carts:  A number of grocers offer kids-sized shopping carts, although Target pulled hundreds of them in 2006 after kids misbehaved. Ride-on toy cars attached to grocery carts can be found in some stores.
  • Kid’s membership programs: At Giant Eagle and Market District, a Little Shopper Treat Card membership program lets kids under 10-years-old choose a free cookie from the bakery, a fresh piece of fruit or cheese from the deli on each visit.
  • Freebies: Parenting sites tout the allure of free sampling stations offered by Costco and others to keep their kids attentive.
  • Kids’ cooking classes: Whole Foods and Wegmans offer cooking classes aimed at parents with kids.
  • Rides: Mechanical rides just outside the entrance are still often used as a tradeoff to encourage kids to behave while shopping. A famous one is Meijer’s pony mascot, Sandy, that still only costs a penny.


DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: What do you think of Trader Joe’s covert stuffed animal, hide-and-seek game? What are some practical ways stores can help entertain or engage kids during their shopping trip?

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