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Published March 25th 2015
Getting yourself prepared for cheaper groceries
Early 2016 will see the arrival of Aldi, the giant German owned supermarket chain, into Adelaide. Already an established presence in the eastern states of Australia, the eagerly-awaited arrival of Aldi is attracting much interest on a dedicated bring Aldi to Adelaide Facebook page and various newspaper articles.
But how can we get so excited about a supermarket ? What is so different about Aldi as compared to our traditional supermarkets, or even as compared to recent arrival of the US shopping giant Costco. On a recent trip interstate, I took some time out in order to find out what causes all the excitement and visited the Shepparton and Horsham Aldi stores.
As a general rule, Aldi stores are located typically close to where the customers are or are likely to be, which is in residential / retail areas. Aldi also has a proliferation of stores in areas where the rent is likely to be lower, which enables them in turn to keep their prices lower. A number of these locations are in the suburbs, or higher populated country locations. For Adelaide the first batch of Aldi stores will mostly be located near the new distribution centre at Regency Park, with stores planned for Blakeview, Gilles Plains, Kilburn, Modbury, Parafield Gardens, Salisbury and St Agnes. Stores in the south will be located near Hallett Cove, Noarlunga, Seaford and Woodcroft.
Aldi stores tend not to be huge stores like our typical supermarkets, and perhaps are closer in size to the independent supermarkets operating in South Australia. Where possible the Aldi store aims to have the car park immediately to front of the store thus enabling easy access for shoppers.
The aisles at Aldi appear to be the same width as other supermarkets, but the shelves are different in that they are only six feet high and primarily store boxes of products on them vice individual products. Coupled with this, something which took me some time to comprehend was how the price of the product was placed above the product on the shelf. As a person who is used to looking below the product for the price, it took some time for me to make the adjustment.
By default, due to the smaller size of shop the number of products within the store are less than you would find in a traditionally large supermarket. Through my visits I noticed that Aldi stocked most items that I would want to purchase, but instead of multiple brands of tomato sauce (with herbs, chilli, extra tomato or whatever), they tended to only stock one or two of the most popular types or brands. A much smaller fresh fruit, vegetable, meat and bakery sections was also noticed as was the absence of an in-store delicatessen serving personalised serves of sliced meat etc.
Aldi has been keen to fight off accusations that it only stocks overseas products, and my observations were generally to that effect. A quick count up and down a few aisles noted a number of Australian brands interspersed with a number of overseas / international brands, such that the mix across the whole store appeared to be 25% Australian. A much larger proportion of Australian products existed for the pre-packaged fruit, vegetables and meat, presumably due to the shorter shelf lives of these products.
Overall, I felt the prices for the products on sale were a lot cheaper than for similar coloured, branded or looking products in my normal Adelaide supermarket and the weekly catalogue indicated a number of items that were on a generous special. However I was unable to attest to the quality as I didn't buy or sample every product. Despite this, an old adage comes back to me that you only get what you paid for, and perhaps this needs to be at the back of the mind when some of the products are offered at a substantial price discount.
I must admit that I did arrive at each of the stores with some pre-conceived ideas about the checkout process, and in particular long queues. It may have been the time of the day, but the long queues weren't apparent during my visit, and I was greeted by pleasant checkout staff at the end of the longest checkout counter that I had ever seen before !
Will it work in Adelaide ? The answer is an overwhelming "Yes". Adelaide shoppers have always been price conscious when it comes to shopping, and Aldi will allow Adelaideans to continue that theme. The location of the stores in the more price sensitive areas of greater Adelaide will ensure good patronage. And while there are more overseas brands than local brands, I think the price will dictate the play at the end of the day.