Shopping (again)

imagesLoaves and fishes

It seems that the large super markets are getting less popular. None too late. By the time the car has found a parking spot, their owners are almost ready to give up an lie down somewhere behind a solid concrete column, between fading windswept catalogues and screaming shopping enticements. ‘Free this and Free that.’ Mothers  are wrenching giant triple story Syrian tank like prams out of the car, sobbing in tune with  children choking on  lollypops and angst inducing vibrating IPhone. A calamity waiting for a jovial funeral director! It is no wonder they are in decline. It was too much, too large and all too spread out. Too much choice, too little service and exhaustingly depressive.

A couple of German billionaires took on the huge super market domination of shopping and are now reaping the benefits. They call their shops ‘Aldi’. They are to be found all over the world but they remain in the hands of private owners and are not publicly listed. They generally are all of a modest size and do not provide, (the enemy of our ecology but much loved by the capitalist word,)   plastic shopping bags, nor do they allow their shopping trolleys to be skated around suburbia only to end up around telegraph poles or in the local creek. They ask for a deposit before being released. They had that system back in Holland decades ago when I was still a young man , brimming with optimism and joy de vivre but also with some early burgeoning signs of a clear-sighted despair as well. ( not totally unfounded.)

Most of their products are Aldi brands and have simple direct exterior packaging doubling as display as well as being the product. The stores themselves are small to walk around and one doesn’t have to go on a day-long hike, risking dehydration, to find the elusively shy toothpaste or the brazen Spanish salami.

The giant supermarkets in Australia, Woolworth and Coles are now rapidly losing market share with a sagging share price. Aldi is becoming the popular way of shopping. At least 20% cheaper on everything especially groceries.

Here an extract of the philosophy of Aldi, by Der Spiegel.

“It took until the end of the 1990s for the product lines to change, in line with society, gradually and subtly, but with remarkable consequences. Smoked salmon replaced broad beans, Montepulciano wine lined shelves previously crammed with standard German Schnapps. And even middle-class consumers or good earners felt pleased with themselves when they wheeled an Aldi PC out of the store.

Aldi’s firmly established presence in everyday German laugh contrasts with a dearth of information about its founders. The secrecy they shrouded themselves in at times seemed ridiculous. Questions to the management had to be submitted by fax. They rarely elicited an answer. This was generally attributed to the traumatic kidnapping of Theo Albrecht in 1971.

No entrepreneur and no company celebrated its own reclusiveness as rigidly as Aldi. The company would say that its founders had nothing to say because they were concentrating on the business. The company had grown because it did not feed a curious public with news, a close confidante once said, describing Theo’s creed.

Enthusiasm, Perfectionism and Absolute Thrift

In Aldi’s world, open communication was regarded as a mistake, or at least as a waste of time. Anyone who broke that code was a traitor. Almost everyone who provides information on the family or the company does so on condition of anonymity.

Enthusiasm for the product, perfectionism and absolute thrift — those were the secrets of success for the Albrecht brothers. High-ranking executives would dig old pencils out of their desk drawers whenever one of the brothers paid them a visit, just to avoid causing any suspicion that they were wasting office supplies.

For decades, the brothers have focused on what they consider to be the essentials: the best quality product at the lowest possible price.

In the process, Aldi’s product range has always remained relatively limited. The supermarket chain sells around 1,000 different articles. By comparison, the US retail giant Wal-Mart stocks up to 50,000 different products. But anyone who has ever stood looking at a supermarket shelf featuring 28 different kinds of fruit yogurt knows that sometimes less is more.

“From the beginning, Aldi has always focused on two, or a maximum three, varieties of a product, thereby helping the customer by making a useful pre-selection,” says Thomas Roeb, a retail expert and former Aldi manager.”

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25 Responses to “Shopping (again)”

  1. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Nice article on Aldi’s. I’m sad to say that I do not find the store appealing even with discounts. What I eat, the store doesn’t not sell and I want good looking produce which is non existent at Aldi’s. It’s a great store if you can live with the limited choices. I can not.

    I’m not exhausted after shopping at my local HEB. But all items are top quality and overall does not cost that much more/. I just carefully buy produce that is on sale when if it suits my needs.

    But I understand that not all cities have a lovely grocery such as the one where I shop.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, Yvonne; If they don’t sell what you normally eat can hardly be spoken against.
      Well, I just came back from Aldi with 4 AUSTRALIAN salmon fillets (500grams) at $12.99 which worked out at $26.- a kilo. The salmon at Coles is $ 36.- a kilo. IMPORTED.
      Their fruit and vegies are as fresh if not fresher and much cheaper than elsewhere.
      It wasn’t the cheaper prices that lured me. It was that finally, finally…., there was a store that stopped giving plastic bags to customers. No whale or dolphin will ever choke on an Aldi bag. You bring your own bag or buy re-usable. Another enormous plus is that the trolleys stay with Aldi. No more trolleys in rivers and gulleys or littering the footpath.
      Of course people have preferences. My sister in law loathes Aldi.
      I am now going to peel a couple of potatoes, fry an onion, boil green beans (Aldi $2.99 500grams) and get ready for the salmon cutlets with Wasabi.

      Liked by 1 person

      • gerard oosterman Says:

        On re-checking the salmon cutlets, they are NORWEGIAN grown. A few weeks ago I checked and the cutlets were Australian.
        Nothing is stable and nothing can be taken for granted.


  2. bkpyett Says:

    Great post Gerard. I’m converted. We have an Aldi not too far away and I find I shop much more wisely. In the big supermarkets I’d get carried away and buy things that were not on my shopping list.
    I do have to refrain from some of the weekly specials, but there again, I can get some children’s presents at really good prices!
    Am thrilled that at last we have a choice!


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Glad you like Aldi.

      Not all of Aldi is good. I bought a garden hose reel that is supposed to wind back the hose after use. Helvi just shouted that it had come off the coupling. I checked it and after fiddling gave up on it. I’ll have to chuck it out. But…for food and service, excellent. In and out within 15 minutes by myself, and with H half an hour or more depending on a T-shirt size, a special pillow or some other intimate item that she feels she needs.
      They are good on tools too. Our TV we bought from Aldi when still on the farm in 2009.


  3. roughseasinthemed Says:

    I don’t like any supermarkets. As we don’t eat fish, meat, poultry, that leaves veg, which we buy from local shops and hasn’t bern frigi trucked across Europe or flown around the world. Supermarkets have stopped giving away free bags in both Spain and Gib. We reused the bags anyway, either as bin liners for rubbish or to pick up after the dogs.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Local vegie shops are a rarety and often have rather limp looking vegies anyway. The days of good fruit and vegie shops have gone.

      The local markets are the best but they only come around once a fortnight.
      Glad to hear that plastic shopping bags are out in Spain and Gib.

      Here the big two ( Coles and Woolworth) have a duopoly on food shopping and so far Government is too intimidated ( think political donations) to change that.

      Plastic bags or not has been made a matter of ‘choice’ for the shopper. Most of course go home with shop provided plastic bags. Erggggh.


  4. elizabeth2560 Says:

    After reading your post, I tried Aldi today. It still had all the plastic food the other two supermarkets have (just less variety). I concluded that I loathe shopping in supermarkets. Fullstop.
    Thanks for the info though. It was interesting and its great that the other two and finding it tougher now.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, plastic food is also available at Aldi. We run past all those, avoid sauces, dehydrated noodles, chocolate bars, biscuits, tinned this and that. We get the salmon cutlets, the sardines, potatoes, broccoli, onions, garlic ,beans, the pane di Casa, linseed bread, butter, milk including butter milk, the cheese, sometimes blue vein or Fetta, toilet paper (Symphony brand ) and that’s about it.
      The car is parked within a 5 second walk of the Aldi shop. The trolleys needs a $2.- coin and in we are. Out within minutes, quick efficient and no nonsense. The cashiers sit in a back supportive swivel chair and go through a six weeks paid training course. You can tell they know what they are doing. No plastic bags.

      Compare that with the big two supermarkets, Coles and Woolworth, and you are having to cope with indifference, scowling bored out of their brains staff, chewing gum, standing up in the same position all day, back braking low paid job.

      The car is underneath somewhere in a bunker miles away probably getting damaged by some sugared up loaded high as a kite hoodlum.

      One is lucky to get out in one piece.


      • elizabeth2560 Says:

        Good for you for supporting the little guys (and walking past the plastic food). I too am trying to not shop in the big supermarkets. It is never a pleasant experience … life it too short.


  5. Patti Kuche Says:

    You could spend a month here in NYC and enjoy a different shopping experience almost every day, and no Aldi!


  6. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    I’m sure you already know that we have Trader Joe’s markets here. They are the great gift to the neighborhood elderly as well. The same two Albrecht bros. started them and they were bought out in lat 70’s I believe. When we first discovered them in Southern California they sold wines and snack items. Now you can get nearly everything in the food line. The produce is great.


  7. M-R Says:

    You and me both, brother.
    Reminds me: I must pop up there for another can of vanilla air-freshener for Lui’s kitty-litter box. The ONLY genuinely nice air-freshener I’ve ever smelled ! 🙂


  8. rod Says:

    The same trend is evident her in the YUK, with Aldi and Lidl ‘eating’ into the market share of the four big chains. (Woolworths went out of business here years ago.)


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Those big super malls/ super-markets are in decline and not before their time. The effort in getting there, parking, and the stench of all that food, the sight of giant masticating jaws and sounds of huge gurgling stomachs, ambulances coming and going reviving heart attacked shoppers, dehydrated pensioners found behind the huge acreages of endless dairy products.
      It was always not sustainable.


  9. stuartbramhall Says:

    I won’t be a bit sad to see the large supermarkets go. It’s silly and wasteful (in terms of CO2 emissions) putting so much emphasis on packaging and imported food. And processed food is pure poison due to all the added sugar. People are much better off eating home prepared locally grown food in season – in their own back yards where possible. And using less toxic (and more effective) vinegar and baking soda to clean with like our grandmothers did.


    • gerard oosterman Says:

      No, i am unfurling flags in anticipation of the large supermarkets go under. The movement to better food is hopefully strengthening, rules on clear information on foods is getting tighter. A star system on their nutrional value might also help. But, for every innovation the capitalist system throws up another scam. It is so difficult.


  10. algernon1 Says:

    I worked on the construction side of Aldi when they first appeared here in the late 90’s. However I won’t shop there. Simply all profits go back to Germany into the hands of Germany’s third richest man. On top of that the products are no frills. Food allergies don’t help either.

    we only buy the basics from supermarkets nowadays. Most food is bought at our local butcher or fruit shop, therefore keeping our farmers afloat.


  11. gerard oosterman Says:

    Well, most of Aldi’s products are locally grown as well. In fact they pride themselves on that. You are right, Aldi is not listed and privately owned.
    I still think they set an example of not providing plastic shopping bags. In many European countries, plastic bags are not allowed.


  12. Dorothy brett Says:

    Hi gerard, Aldi accepts returns with a great attitude, and I buy what I vp an there. For yoghurt they don’t sell what I like so I just pop over to woollies.
    I use my shopping trolley to avoid renting the Aldi trolley. Parking is great.
    My only complaint is that most of their fruit and veggies is only sold in larger packs, too big for a single person, but I cope easily with that.


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