Perth was abuzz today with the grand opening of its first Aldi stores! Yours truly decided to head down to the nearest store so that I could bring you this review, does Aldi stack up to the supermarket giants? I’ll let you decide!
What exactly is Aldi?
Aldi is actually two companies; Aldi Nord and Aldi Sud, both companies started out as a single store operated by Karl and Theo Albrecht, the company name comes from combining the Al in Albrecht and the Di in Diskont (Discount). Eventually the company split in two with Karl taking ownership of Aldi Sud and Theo taking Aldi Nord, the two companies are technically still the “same” and sell the exact same products, operate the exact same way and even their logos are borderline identical. So why the difference? Mostly they operate in different markets, both Sud and Nord operate in Germany, but outside Germany they’re split; Sud operate in Austria, Australia, Hungary, Ireland, the UK, Switzerland and Slovenia. Nord holds stores in Belgium, Denmark, France, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal and Spain. The only joint market outside of Germany is the USA where Aldi Sud operates as Aldi and Aldi Nord operates as Trader Joes (Always got to be different, America).
The store is essentially a supermarket equivalent to the classic discount variety stores like Red Dot and The Reject Shop. The majority of products are imitation brands, with a handful of name brand items on rotation every month. Generally the imitation brands are sourced from the same suppliers as their name brand competitors and are anywhere between a few dollars cheaper to prices as low as a quarter of the competition, right now I’m eating Aldi’s equivalent to Clinkers and they cost me less than a dollar.
The stores are for the most part smaller than your average supermarket, hence the limited choice when it comes to products. Despite the small size the aisles are about twice the size of your standard supermarket. The store layout is fairly uniformed; shelves are filled with products still in their shipment casing, which from what I’ve heard makes it much easier to restock shelves in an efficient and low man power manner. Checkouts, which the company itself highlights as “extra large”, are about three times the size of the average supermarket checkout, with employees seated at the end, once again it appears efficiency is key which conforms to the German stereotype that Volkswagen kicked off.
There’s a few interesting little features unique to the store; shopping bags aren’t complementary. A standard bag will set you back 15 cents each and you have to bag your items yourself at a special bagging station, that might upset some people, but as the attendant was so keen to inform people “this is how we keep prices low”, if anything I felt it was mildly amusing that the best customer service I’ve ever had at a supermarket was being told that the service wasn’t quite as extensive. Shopping trolleys/carts aren’t complementary either; Aldi employs a rental system where you chuck a token into the trolley’s lock to access your trolley, once you’ve unloaded your shopping into your car you take the trolley back and get your token.
At the moment they’re giving free tokens and one is enough for everyone, so I took two (in your face Willy Wonka). The rental system benefits the company and consumers; the company saves money on not having trolley collectors or having to replace stolen/damaged trolleys and that saving is partly passed on to you! The other thing to look out for is the credit card/paypass surcharge; Aldi accepts debit cards and cash, but if you’re the sort of person who likes to use paypass I’d suggest relearning that PIN number and getting used to the old style swipe/insert method or you’ll be slapped with a 0.5% surcharge.
Today’s launch, which included some fairly enthusiastic shoppers lining up outside waiting for the 8:30 open copped a fair amount of criticism with the general attitude being a mocking assertion that people were dumb/low class/Perth’d for making such a big deal about a supermarket. I’m gonna be frank with you; don’t be a dick, keep in mind that’s coming from a professional dick so if I’m saying it you know you’ve gone wrong somewhere. I went to Aldi today because I wanted to write this article and to relive some of the nostalgia I had from shopping at Aldi/Trader Joe’s back home, but most of the people I saw at the store today were low-income families. I actually saw a mother of three in complete awe at the reality of $3.99 whole chickens, people generally excited that semi-luxurious items were being offered at affordable prices. Hell even I was surprised to see fresh broccolini for $1 and yeah I had it tonight and it was just as fresh as any other broccolini I’ve bought from a store.
If you want to knock Aldi as a brand be my guest, but don’t treat people like shit just because they’re excited about buying items that usually would fall outside of their price range. It isn’t fair to treat people that way and as I mentioned even someone like myself who occupies the middle-class has a lot to gain from products offered e.g. Aldi has an imitation brand version of Head & Shoulders shampoo, I use anti-dandruff shampoo because I GET DANDRUFF and honestly being able to lessen the burden on my wallet is something I can appreciated.