Thursday, January 15, 2009

Small-Format Food Retailing USA -Trader v. Trader: Gristedes Complies With Judge's Order; Covers Up 'Trader' Portion of its 'Trader John's' Store Sign

As of today, Gristedes' Trader John's market on 14th Street in Manhattan is called plain old "Johns." The retailer has covered the "Trader" portion of the store sign to comply with a judge's order yesterday. [Photo Credit/The Shophound.]

New York's Gristedes supermarket chain today complied with a judge's order given yesterday that it remove the Trader John's sign from a 10,000 square foot former Gristedes banner supermarket it converted on 14th street in New York City to that name and to a format very similar to that of specialty grocer Trader Joe's. And Gristedes complied in a unique way -- rather than remove the sign completely and change the name of the store 100%, the supermarket chain merely has covered up the "Trader" portion of the Trader John's store sign, so now the name of the store just reads "Johns."

Gristedes is owned and run by billionaire John Catsimatidis, so the store's temporary name, "John's," does have a ring of realism to it. Calling the store plain old "Johns" also satisfies the judge's order, which was that Gristedes cease from using the name "Trader" on and in the store.

The judge's order was a result of a lawsuit filed against Gristedes by the wildly popular Southern California-based specialty grocery chain Trader Joe's, which is owned by members of the German family who also own the Germany-based global Aldi small-format discount grocery chain, in which the original trader said Gristedes' copying of the TJ's format and use of the Trader John's name and signage very similar to its was an infringement on the discount specialty and natural foods grocer's intellectual property.

The judge ruled in favor of Trader Joe's yesterday, ordering Gristedes owner, chairman and CEO John Catsimatidis to remove the Trader John's sign and cease from using the word "Trader" in the store his company converted to look very similar to a Trader Joe's market inside and out, including its product offerings. A Trader Joe's market is located just three blocks from what is now Gristedes' "Johns."

Catsimatidis said today the renaming of the store as just plain old "Johns" is a temporary fix to satisfy the judge's ruling. He said the supermarket chain is looking at new names for the store in light of the judge's decision. Potential names include "Cheap Johns" and "John's Bargain Store," among a couple others, he said today in a statement. We think Gristedes can do much better than that. To find out why, see our piece from earlier today here.

Trader Joe's original lawsuit also asked the judge to force Gristedes to change the interior design, which is very similar to the inside of a Trader Joe's market, of the former Trader John's market, along with forcing the New York supermarket chain to change the name and signage. However as part of a compromise, Trader Joe's dropped that demand on the condition Gristedes change the name and sign and completely cease using "Trader" in any aspect of the store's name or merchandising.

[Related story from Fresh & Easy Buzz: Small-Format Food Retailing USA: The Big Apple Won't Be A Two-Trader City: Judge Says No to Gristedes' 'Trader John's' 'Trader Joe's' Knockoff. Readers: Click on the story link (go to the bottom of the piece) and offer your suggestions on what the new name for Trader Johns, now just plain old "Johns," should be.

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