Aldi Nord, the more conservative of two separate Aldi companies, is secretly testing a new generation of stores, very aptly named Aldi New Generation. RetailDetail already reported about the secret pilot store in Mariakerke (Ghent), but with the discovery of a second 'New' store in Putte (Mechelen) the existence of a New Generation is no longer in doubt.
New folder strategy leads to new store design
Make no mistake: Aldi's assortment and pricing will remain the same – only the perception changes. Still, these changes will be quite significant: a different logo, more daylight in the store, product displays with a picture and a more surveyable design should make sure customers have a more agreeable shopping experience.
The first signs of change were already visible in January, when Aldi left its eternal leaflet strategy to push temporary promotions on the first three pages. The chain also started experiments with special weeks with focus on Spanish, Italian or Asian products: the first step towards highlighting quality as well – not just its image as hard discounter.
“A sensible choice, as Aldi's market share has been under a huge pressure from Colruyt and Delhaize's private label strategies”, as retail expert Jorg Snoeck explains. Indeed, Aldi Belgium's turnover went down for the first time last year– even if only by 0.5%. Not only the big two's private label strategy, but also the sharp promotions on A-brands proved to be a big threat for the German hard discounter.
More light, more colours, more comfort
The new store design is the next step for Aldi's modernisation, and one can say that its new leaflet style has been used to upgrade the stores as well. Apart from the larger windows and the new displays (grey instead of orange), the new stores will have wider aisles, modern materials, shades of blue instead of the omnipresent brown and lower shelves. The “look and feel” also benefited greatly from Aldi's decision to place huge pictures next to certain types of products – think of a delicious picture of ice cream in the freezer section...
Another delightful novelty is the baking machine, which bakes smaller bread rolls on the spot. Aldi Süd introduced this machine months ago, now the more traditional Aldi Nord also features it in the Mariakerke pilot store – despite bakers' protests who claim this “baking machine” is merely heating up the bread rolls while the actual production is done by baking companies in other places. This German trial is still pending – but clearly Aldi Nord did not wait for the results.
Excellent results... but what in the long run?
The 'New Generation' stores in Mariakerke, Putte and German Koblenz are rumoured to achieve excellent results, as they combine the best of both worlds: Aldi's classical no-nonsense approach and a nicer shopping experience in the stores. Though customers react very pleased to this restyling, this might be a dangerous move for Aldi Nord. Choosing for quality over price can endanger the whole discount strategy, even if the first steps are rather small. “You can not be a bit pregnant”, as discount godfather Frans Colruyt once stated. It will be a tough task for Aldi to fulfil both its discounter's mission statement and its new promise to improve quality and experience.
Aldi consists of two separate entities with clearly distinct territories. Aldi Nord has the North of Germany (hence the name), Belgium, the Netherlands and Poland, while Aldi Süd has the South of Germany and more southern countries like Switzerland, Austria , Hungary and Greece. Strangely enough, the UK and Ireland are Aldi Süd's territory, while Aldi Nord holds France, Spain and Portugal. The chain has about 8200 stores in Europe, the US and Australia.