ALDI Joins the Fray
Enter ALDI. The German company dates to the 1940s and came to the United States in 1976. With its small stores and limited inventory of mainly house brands, it's so successful on its home turf that it ran Walmart out of Germany a few years ago--the Wall Street Journal reported, with jaw dropped, that Germans preferred ALDI because Walmart was too expensive.
More than a thousand ALDIs operate in twenty-nine states, including fifty in Michigan. Ann Arbor's opened in November on the corner of Maple and Dexter, where Imperial Auto (now on Jackson Plaza) stood. The brand-new building clocks in at 17,000 square feet. By comparison, nearby Plum Market is 28,000 square feet. Despite the limited size and inventory, ALDI covers all the bases--meat, produce, and all categories of canned and dry goods, including paper and soap. The beer and wine section is tiny and you won't find the brands anywhere else, but the price is right--Winking Owl cabernet sauvignon at $2.99 a bottle, anyone? There are even some toys and small appliances.
ALDI does not have the complex, not to say bewildering, array of brands that other stores carry. Tricia Snider, director of operations for Michigan stores, explains: "We don't have sixteen brands of applesauce--we have one. We're going to give you a very high quality in a limited range of items for a very low price." Another way of cutting costs is the elemental product display. ALDI has few shelves; everything is neatly and simply stacked in the packing boxes it arrived in.