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List of supermarkets

Aldi

Aldi is a hard discount supermarket chain of German origin (actually two chains but commonly referred to as one). The brand name "Aldi" is an acronym derived of "Albrecht" and "discount". Historically, Aldi is said to have been the first real discount supermarket chain to get established in Germany. Aldi (that is, both Aldi chains) could best be described as "absolutely no frills supermarkets" (see below).

The company was founded in 1946 by the brothers Karl and Theo Paul Albrecht in Mülheim an der Ruhr. Back then, it comprised only one small food shop. In the year 1961, the then-Aldi chain of supermarket stores split into two companies (each belonging to one of the brothers) over a dispute whether to sell cigarettes and other tobacco products at the checkout. Thus today, Aldi consists of Aldi Nord (Aldi North) (where tobacco sales were deemed to be acceptable) and Aldi Süd (Aldi South) (where they were not). The chains initially covered the respective different regions of the then-West Germany. The companies have since expanded internationally, into other European and North American markets. In principle, the two firms share nothing but the name and a similar corporate identity, however there appear to be agreements between the two insofar that they do not compete directly with each other and (except for Germany) never both operate in the same countries:

Aldi Nord operates in

  • Northern Germany
  • Belgium
  • the Netherlands
  • Luxembourg
  • France
  • Spain
  • Denmark

Aldi Süd operates in

  • Southern Germany
  • the United Kingdom
  • the USA
  • Ireland
  • Australia
  • Austria (where it operates under the name Hofer)
  • Switzerland.

Aldi specializes in food, beverages and drinks, sanitary articles and other inexpensive household items, as well as (occasionally) discount clothes, plus weekly special offers on more expensive products such as electric appliances or computers. Aldi is the largest wine retailer in Germany. Aldi mainly sells exclusively produced, custom-branded products. Despite Aldi's marked emphasis on very low prices, various reports from a German consumer watchdog suggest that the quality of Aldi products appears not to have suffered.

Aldi's "strictly no frills" approach is evident for instance in that typically Aldi stores do not decorate aisles — or even fill shelves for that matter: Pallets of the products on offer are commonly simply parked alongside the aisles, and customers picking up products will gradually empty them. When all items on a pallet have been sold, it is replaced. Queueing at the checkout counter is also relatively common, which probably means that Aldi's staffing levels don't reflect peak time but rather average demand; at actual peak times, customers may have to wait. These and other cost-cutting strategies save Aldi money and arguably the general price level in Aldi stores — as compared to more "upmarket" supermarkets — appears to show that at least some or most of these savings are passed on to consumer. Aldi has successfully carved its own (actually rather large) niche with this approach: While shoppers may not normally like shopping in a bland or industrial-looking (and possibly congested) store, such utter lack of frills has become part of the accepted norm with Aldi and consumers appear to be willing to accept it because of the "incredibly low prices" they expect to get in exchange. ("Top quality at incredibly low prices" is an Aldi marketing slogan.)

Aldi has a policy of not advertising, one of the cost savings that can be passed on to consumers. However, in the USA, Aldi advertises regularly via weekly newspaper inserts and Aldi television commercials have begun airing on the TBS network. Although this means many people do not know of its existence, the idea appeals to consumers, and the Aldi message is spread via word of mouth. Aldi do not have publicly listed telephones in stores to minimize the time checkouts are unutilised. The checkout procedure at Aldi is arguably more refined than at other comparable supermarkets, with checkout operators sitting down in swivel chairs, passing products through a barcode scanner (double sided scanner to the maximum effect) at a high rate (all products have very long barcodes all over the packaging for this purpose). Once products have been scanned, they are put directly in the shopping cart, which has a special dock on the counter for this purpose. Shopping cart theft is minimized in a number of stores through the use of a small deposit for each cart (25 cents in the USA, £1 in the UK), refundable on return of the cart.

In West Germany, before about 1990, Aldi shops were often ridiculed as being cheap shops selling poor-quality goods. Aldi's customers were alleged to be only poor people who couldn't afford to shop elsewhere. Being held in such low esteem by many did not seem to dent Aldi's profits however. After the German reunification, many German middle class families had to cut down their spending and Aldi's popularity and public acceptance grew. Many individual consumers "discovered" that the poor reputation of Aldi's products was apparently undeserved. This shift in public perception was boosted by a series of cookbooks that only used Aldi ingredients, which led to the emergence of a kind of Aldi fandom into the German mainstream. In other countries however, such as the UK, Aldi's public reputation does not appear to have improved in a similar way, again, without this state of affairs apparently being a burden on the chains' profits.

In Germany Aldi is occasionally is called Feinkost Albrecht (approximate translation: Albrecht Deli) in an ironic way.

Recently the similar Lidl chain has grown faster than Aldi; however, it does not operate (as of 2005) in North America.

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