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.”