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Aldi remodeling won't hit area for awhile

Aldi remodeling won't hit area for awhile

Aldi remodeling won't hit area for awhile
A view inside Aldi, the giant German retailer in the Rego Center shopping mall, in New York on March 9, 2011.
Photographer: Chester Higgins Jr./The New York Times

I wish I could tell you how soon the Aldi stores in our area will be remodeled, in keeping with the no-frill grocer’s just-announced plans to revamp most of its 1,600 U.S. locations.

Likewise, I wish I could tell you whether we’ve been targeted for new stores, in keeping with the discounter’s previously announced “accelerated” growth plans.

But, alas, all I could get out of the company was a benign thanks-for- your-interest response.

An Aldi vice president told me via email that he knew I was “eager” to learn more and so promised to “reach out with more specific details at a later date!” (His exclamation point, not mine.)

Aldi is the limited-assortment, bare-bones grocer that displays most products in their packing cases and charges a returnable 25 cents to use a shopping cart.

The company, founded in Germany, came to the U.S. in the 1970s and now operates in 35 states. Locally, it has nine stores, stretching from Hudson to Queensbury and west to Amsterdam and Johnstown.

Earlier this month, Aldi said it planned an “aggressive,” $1.6 billion store remodel that will give the compact sites a more modern overall design with “robust” produce, meat and bakery sections.

Chances are, though, the revamp will come later to our area because Aldi may want to spiff up its other Mid-Atlantic stores in the face of a new competitor: Lidl.Pronounced lee-duhl, it, too, is a German-born, no-frill discounter. Lidl said last week that it will open its first U.S. stores this summer in Virginia and the Carolinas, en route to 100 locations by next year stretching from Georgia to Pennsylvania.

Lidl’s stores will be about 36,000 square feet, according to its website – twice the size of the typical Aldi. A Lidl official told the Washington Post the bigger stores would be able to offer the wider product assortment desired by U.S. shoppers. The company also has indicated it will make a conscious effort to not look like a discounter.

Brick Meets Click, an e-commerce adviser to grocers, likens Lidl’s U.S. strategy to drafting in competitive cycling – capitalizing on another racer’s aerodynamics.

That means that because shoppers in an Aldi market already are familiar with the no-frill concept, Lidl can go in and focus on wooing two kinds of consumers “looking for just a

little something more,” according to Brick Meets Click. The first are shoppers who don’t like the no-frill label. “If the discount experience was just a little softer, they’d probably give it a try,” says the consultant.

The second are occasional Aldi customers who like the low prices “but would like an experience that’s a little closer to what they’re familiar with in supermarkets.”

Predicts Brick Meets Click, “These two hard discounters will probably kick up a lot of dust in the markets where they compete against each other – and everyone else.”

Marlene Kennedy is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in her column are her own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Reach her at marlenejkennedy@gmail.com.

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