The Man Behind Canada’s Pirate Joe’s

Pirate JoesThis month’s edition of Food & Wine includes the following article on Mike Hallatt a Vancouver, Canada man who runs Pirate Joe’s a store that purchases Trader Joe’s private brand products in the US and resells them in Canada. The story is adapted from a CBS Sunday Morning peice with Mo Rocca that is also below.
This presents a challenging question for retailers around the world: Do you own a Private Brand so compelling that customers are willing to passionately resell the?”

The Man Behind Canada’s Black Market Trader Joe’s

By Mike Pomranz | Apr 27 2015

As an American, you probably take Trader Joe’s for granted. The quirky grocery store chain has more than 400 locations, covering 39 states and the District of Columbia. But they have no international locations—not even in our friendly neighbor to the north, Canada.

One self-professed Trader Joe’s tamale junkie who got hooked on the stuff while living in San Francisco has tried to single-handedly rectify that situation. Mike Hallatt runs Pirate Joe’s, an independent reseller of Trader Joe’s products in Vancouver. With a team of shoppers, his business travels around to Trader Joe’s across the border in Washington, buying up products and bringing them back into Canada. And it’s completely legal. In fact, Trader Joe’s lost a lawsuit against him. (They are currently appealing.)

“If you own something, you’re legally entitled to do anything you want with it, including selling it to your friends in Canada,” Hallatt told CBS News, which profiled him earlier this month. In one line of questioning, CBS asked about Hallatt’s process: Turns out he pays duties on all the items he brings into Canada and only sells official Trader Joe’s products, no knock-offs. Since Hallatt does everything above board, his store is totally legit. And though Trader Joe’s may feel slighted, they’re reaping the benefits as well. Hallatt estimates he has spent about $800,000 at his favorite grocery store.


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Christopher Durham
Christopher Durham is the president of My Private Brand and the co-founder of The Vertex Awards. He is a strategist, author, consultant and retailer who built brands at Delhaize-owned Food Lion, and lead strategy and brand development for Lowe’s Home Improvement. He has consulted with retailers around the world on their private brand portfolios including: Family Dollar, Petco, Staples, Office Depot, Best Buy, Metro (Canada), TLW (Taiwan) and Hola (Taiwan). Durham has published five definitive books on private brands, including his first book, Fifty2: The My Private Brand Project. In 2017, he will debut his newest book, Vanguard: Vintage Originals, a visual tour of innovation and disruption in private brand going back to the mid-1800’s. Dynamic in his presentation while down to earth and frank in his opinions, he has presented at numerous conferences, including FUSE, The Dieline Conference, Packaging that Sells, Omnishopper and PLMA’a annual trade show in Chicago. Durham lives in Charlotte, NC with his wife, Laraine, and two daughters, Olivia and Sarah.