Aldi – If you have not heard of it, you will. This company is taking a new frugal America by storm. It is a fascinating business model with a unique history that I won’t bore you with, mostly. Aldi applies many of the Lean Management principles that Eliminate The Muda aims to share. Their roots date back to 1913 when the mother of Karl and Theo Albrecht opened a small grocer in Germany. The sons took over after the war and quickly expanded to 300 stores in just 14 years. At that point they had a falling out and split the company in two. Aldi Sud (South) is the organization that operates stores in the U.S.
Interesting maybe for a business buff, for you what’s important is that their lean approach translates into lower cost products. This is not a conventional grocer; they focus on the staples and few impulsive items except when they can offer an exceptional value.
Great things about Aldi include:
Sticker Shock – but this is the good kind because of their low, low prices. Do yourself a favor before you ever go into an Aldi for the first time; put together a price list of your common purchases. Then walk through, don’t shop, an Aldi. By the time you finish your trip you will be ready to shop with vigor!
Odd Brand Names – This is a European company and they buy many products from European suppliers. For many other products they purchase in large quantities to keep prices low and then private label them. My son says it is like walking through a parallel universe where the products are the same…. but then again they are not. They may seem a little odd, but try them; in most cases you will like them!
Bulk Purchases – Hey, check this out, you don’t have to! Aldi buys in big lots so that you don’t have to!
Aldi is a different experience – Aldi has a different business philosophy and it shows in the experience.
Skeleton crew – This is not like other grocers. They have just enough people to put the merchandise out and ring it up. Everything else is self-serve!
Bring a quarter – Aldi doesn’t even want to waste a dime paying an associate to chase the baskets in the parking lot. You have to have a quarter to deposit into the carts to release them from storage (think lockers at the airport). When you return the cart you get your quarter back!
Take a box – While shopping if you happen to need a box to organize or carry your purchases, grab one. They usually have a few empties in strategic locations but feel free to unload the last item or two on the shelf to free up the good ones.
You’re the bagger – Did you bag groceries when you were a kid? If so, it is time to reminisce. Bring your own recyclable bags, it green too. If not they will sell you some bags or see the box tip above.
No Credit! – That’s right they are working on thin margins and every penny counts towards keeping your prices lower. They are not paying the credit card fees. Cash and debit or get out!
Readers: Have you ever shopped at an Aldi? Do me a favor and give your honest impressions in the comments below!
photo by whgrad