Maybe I can shed some light on the ALDI issue, since I live near the companies HQs and family estates and have watched the Aldi story unfold for many
10s of years.
And - believe me - in the 70s, Aldi was here also seen as a company offering wares for low income people, and the middle class even felt shame to be
seen shopping at Aldi. Today though, it is not uncommon to see even luxury class cars on the Aldi parking spaces.
Over here, too, people claimed
that Aldi sold bad wares, because they tought only bad products can be sold at low prices. However, as it turned out over the years, Aldi wares
usually are of top quality.
Of course, you cannot buy EVERYTHING at Aldi, some wares are exceptional good, others are quite average and people who have this or that special taste
might find not find there what they are looking for. But - there are, after all, many supermarket companies and Aldi is just one of them. I buy
something with Aldi, something with Lidl (another big german contender in the discount segment who also starts to branch out worldwide), something in
other supermarkets and something in others stores.
Aldi can be a one-for-all shopping stop, but for most people, it is just one of several.
ALDI (= ALbrecht DIskont) comes from the town of Essen in Germany and is run by the founding family (no stock company!) Albrecht since 1913. In 1961,
the two brothers who ran the company, split the company because they had different views on business (one, for example, did not want to sell
cigarettes in the stores, and so on).
So, they divided Germany - and the whole world for that matter - into two parts, known as the "Aldi Nord" (North) and the "ALDI Süd" (South) region.
The USA, UK, Australia and China are all, for example, Aldi-Süd countries, while France, Italy and Spain are Aldi-Nord countries. As exeptions,
Germany had both, in the north is Aldi Nord and in the South is Aldi Süd located, and the US also has both, with Aldi-Nord being run as Trader
Both companies have their headquarters about 20 miles form each other and both families live close to each other, so strategic decisions are still
made, despite different approaches, by their common interest. Both families and companies are not known for any exceedances or scandals and none of
them is affiliated to any political or economic group - or known to be influenced by those. The family as a whole belongs to the richest people in
Germany. The employees of the companies are paid fairly well and being treated fairly well. Both companies counted together are the biggest
supermarket company in Germany.
Their business model has been - and is - a high turnaround, with wares being ideally sold as soon as they arrive, thus reducing costs for storage.
Also, they favored wares being sold out of the boxes rather than being placed nicely in shelves, reducing costs for shelve-stuffers and equipment. in
the recent years, they gradually upgraped their stores to normal shelf-like stores, though.
As a result of this philisophy, they usually carry only 1 type of ware - 1 type of salt, 1 type of sugar, and so on - and this one type of product
usually does exactly what it is supposed to do. In addition, they usually do not sell any brand wares, intead, they used "self brands", so to say a
brand that is only sold with Aldi and nowhere else. Recently, though, they have added a few brand names to their offers, but sometimes only for a
limited time period in which they are sold to very low prices.
Their wares are constantly tested by the independent German consumers association and come up, for both companies, for tens of years, usually in the
top group of quality (and price) of all non and brand wares sold in Germany. They policy on returns is very consumer friendly with damaged wares being
replaced right away and with no questions asked.
The secret behind the (no) brand names is that Aldi usually orders large quantities with the brand names and has the wares produced in their
factories, just being labelled as Aldi brand. In this way, the brand producers can sell off easily over capacities and also increase theirsales -
under a different name that will not damage their "high price" brand. Aldi also owns own factories thorughout the world, though. Well known is, for
example, is the "Medion" line of electronics, Medion is an Aldi-owned company whose wares are usually only sold in Aldi stores. In Germany, Aldi also
runs a prepaid telephone card company, called "Aldi Talk" where Aldi buys capacities of one of the big telco companies and resells it under the
Alditalk name (at very competitive rates, of course).
Now, with the business philosophy known, there needs to be one things added - and this is the claim of "nobody undercuts Aldi prices". This can (and
has) lead to Aldi effectively selling at prices at least equal to any competitor, sometimes they sell wares for less than they paid for - just to stay
the supermaket with the lowest price.
It has also to be added that Aldi grew up and acts in the fiercest food market of the world, Germany, and is used to cut throat prices. In Germany,
supermarkets operate at profit rates of sometimes 2% and less. Which is the reason why even Walmart, who tried to get a foot into the Germany market
failed epically and left after just a few years stating that they "cannot compete here".
One of the Aldi brothers died a few years ago and his heirs seem to fancy a more close relationsship of the companies, Aldi also upgraded their stores
and offers now even a large variety of "Bio" products. While the stores of Aldi Nord looked for many years "simpler" and more basic than those of Aldi
South, they took now a leap forward and the recently opened/upgraded stores are quite nice.
A few remarks at the end:
In Germany, all shopping carts everywhere are chained together and you have to put in a coin (or special token) to get one. This is NOT because people
like to live in or steal carts, in fact, this is unknown of in Germany - but to save costs for people herding the carts and make sure that the
customers place the cart back where he took it from. It also saves from runaway carts who head for parked cars...
In Germany, it is also absolute normal that you bring your own shopping bag - you can, however, buy shopping bags in the shops as well. Plastic bags
are meanwhile (nearly) forbidden to sell, and paper bags ... well, they usually last one shopping trip if at all, but cotton bags can be re-used oevr
and over again. And yes, you stuff your bags by yoursef in the shops. I remember having had a fight once when I was shopping in an US supermarket and
I started after the counter to quickly put the things into my bag and was then told that this is forbidden and a person has to put them into paper
bags first. I never felt more alien in my life any where in the world...