ALDI – 100 Years Young

aldi1I am in Germany right now and old habits die hard.  Which is why I am wandering through supermarket outlets observing, learning (hopefully) and thinking aloud, convincing the locals I am a lunatic causing some interesting reactions as I go.  ALDI Sued is celebrating its one hundredth birthday this month and the promotional brochure they issued for the occasion makes for some fascinating reading.

The “100” is a bit far-fetched as it was obviously not a supermarket journeyman baker Karl Albrecht opened in 1913 but a bakery!  The first grocer’s store was opened by his wife Anna Albrecht in 1916.  Still a far cry from being a supermarket.

Brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht took over the family store in Essen in 1945 and started the expansion process.  By 1948 four stores were in business and the first shop outside of Essen opened in 1954.

The brochure is full of interesting facts.  The chain separated into ALDI Nord und ALDI Sued in 1961 , each brother wandering off with a chunk of the family business.  ALDI, by the way, is the abbreviation for ALbrecht DIskont…Albrecht Discount.  The first of those discount branches were opened in 1962.  Based on the success of the original two discount two stores, the balance of the branch network across ALDI Nord & Sued were gutted refurbished accordingly in 1962/63.
Those early ALDI stores were pretty basic affairs… No shop fittings other than a till, no shelving, but all product arranged on pallets on the floor. No mor than 600 SKUs per store and certainly no deep assortments of any kind. This model, of course, opened up tremendous cost saving opportunities – and as ALDI insists – quality was never compromised from day 1.

In 1976 ALDI started selling General Merchandise specials to bring more foot traffic into their stores. 1983 saw the introduction of refrigerated cabinets for dairy products. Fresh produce joined the assortment in the mid eighties as well and in 1997 ALDI Sued started to sell frozen goods. German ALDI stores now stock circa 1000 SKUs. Scanning groceries at checkouts was not introduced until 2002, the year the Euro became a reality. Until then, checkout operators were required to memorise all prices!

In 2003 Germany introduced a new system related to refunds for empty bottles which saw ALDI Sued introduce automated receiving machines in their branches. Fresh meat became part of the range in 1986. and in 2007/2008, ALDI Sued and Nord joint forces to offer online services for flowers, photographs and travel.

In 2009 fully automated baking stations were introduced to the branch network and in 2010 returnable plastic crates made their debut in the produce departments.  In 2010 ALDI Sued published new business relationship policies which addressed the needs of customers, staff and suppliers. And by 2013, ALDI Sued has an 1800 store network across its designated area of Germany

Herewith endeth the party political ALDI broadcast….

ALDI SUED, by the way, is operating its stores as far away as Australia and for some years now the rumors are rife that an entry into the New Zealand market is due to happen.  Who knows.  If ALDI does come, the New Zealand supermarket landscape will change quite drastically.


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