Germany: Aldi's instore design curse
Updated: Sep 14
Discount Retail Chain Aldi Nord have to leave one thing to the people in charge: Once they have decided on something, it stops - for decades if necessary. At least that has been true for a long, very long time for the store design of one half of the discount market leader. After a few fine adjustments, Essen (city in Germany where the HQ of Aldi Nord is located) does not seem to change much in the store design implemented in 2017.
The “recipe of the week” grid tables had to give way to freezers for promotional goods in 2018; and the transverse shelving direction that was initially built between seasonal goods and fruit and vegetables converted back to the longitudinal shelving direction that regular discount customers were used to and copied from the Belgium Aldi stores.
Otherwise, the re-modelling of the store network is rather noiseless.
Old stores are being replaced by more modern ones - and in order to have more space inside but not have to take away too many parking spaces outside, underground car parks with escalators to the sales area above are now even affordable, as in Berlin.
With one exception: the ovens for the bake-off are built directly behind the bun presentation so that the bread can be filled in from behind instead of having to jerk them across the shop. Lidl has also shown that. The Aldi Nord variant, however, is more space-saving and is hardly noticeable in the back ensemble at the entrance.
Aldi Nord mainly uses the remaining space to display familiar elements from its “ANIKo” format (“Aldi Nord in-store concept”) - without adding any new flourishes. The mini presentation with the gondola head wooden boxes over the wine must be enough. The fact that there is more space between the shelves than anywhere else tends to encourage to be used for special or extra SKU presentations.
And even if this strategic consequence is very discount-oriented and common practice: A bit more creativity to better emphasize individual product categories could certainly not hurt Aldi Nord.
The Mülheim (city in Germany where the HQ of Aldi Süd is located) sister company Aldi Süd approaches the matter a bit different: The “Store of the Future” instore design introduced in 2015 is already showing its age, and the company is trying to counteract this with another refreshment.
Mini greenhouses for marketing
Almost exactly a year ago, Aldi Süd presented its pimped up “freshness store” in Regensburg. Not only does the fruit and vegetables move to the shop entrance, the freshness there has also been given a significantly different appearance, which no longer looks like a classic discount store at all.
With the announcement that in the future herbs will be grown directly in the store and that the Berlin start-up inFarm will build mini greenhouses on the Aldi premises, Aldi Süd is taking its commitment to freshness to extremes.
But mainly for marketing reasons: In May, five stores were initially converted with the herb upgrade (Butzbach, Langenselbold, Mörfelden, Dormagen, Neuss-Norf); seven more are to follow by the end of the year. For reasons of space alone, the herb houses at Aldi Süd are unlikely to become the new standard.
Baking machine, BackWelt, everything mixed up
In many of the existing stores, there is not enough space to integrate the new baking concept “Meine Backwelt” presented 2.5 years ago.
That is why the large, expensive and limited bread assortment these impractical, but efficient automated baking machines, from which bread and rolls can be ordered at the push of a button, offered are phasing out.
More and more Aldi Sued stores are equipped with the 'Meine BackWelt' concept efficiently intregrated and space-saving in the store's warehouses.
As nice as the idea of the “freshness store” may be: In view of the very different store spaces, Aldi Süd customers are likely to retain several store design standards for the foreseeable future.
It's like a little curse: One Aldi concept has almost too much space, the other too little for all imagined improvements - and the German discount continues to live up to its reputation as a permanent construction site.