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Germany: Aldi vs Picnic: Who is the better delivery discounter?

Discount Retail Chain Aldi Süd (German family owned) has started its new food delivery service "Mein Aldi", which will be activated for the first customers in North Rhine-Westphalia on a trial basis by mid-September, Aldi Süd is strongly oriented towards the model that Dutch-German delivery supermarket Picnic has successfully demonstrated.

Online purchases are delivered by Aldi in fixed time slots with small electric vehicles on predetermined routes. The selectable 60-minute time windows should be limited to 20 minutes on the day of delivery. (In contrast to Picnic, however, delivery costs may be charged.)

Or, to put it another way: In Mülheim an der Ruhr, parts of Duisburg and Oberhausen, several milkmen are now driving through the city.

Meanwhile, Picnic has turned the corner from its long-standing home area of North Rhine-Westphalia and now also supplies customers in other federal states. A few weeks ago, the first peripheral areas around Berlin were added; In mid-August, a new fulfillment center was inaugurated in Vierheim (Rhine-Neckar region), from which parts of Darmstadt, Mainz and Wiesbaden are currently to be supplied, as well as up to 10 cities or regions in the future. In addition, Hamburg has made the "best international start" of a new picnic delivery region this year, the trade press has learned.

City hubs, urgently needed

At the same time, it becomes clear what potential difficulties of (rapid) expansion lie for suppliers who work with the picnic model. In this process, purchases are picked in large warehouse centers, brought by truck to distribution centers close to the city, where they are reloaded onto small electric runabouts, which then drive to the customer's home. However, "city hubs" suitable for this function are obviously not so easy to find everywhere.

In the vast majority of cases, Picnic rents spaces in industrial areas on the outskirts of the city, where the minivans remain parked until their next use. (1,400 of these vehicles are already on the road in Germany; 1,300 more are to be added by the new locations, according to "LZ").

In Berlin-Spandau, "runners" (as Picnic calls its delivery drivers) are ordered to work at the address of a DHL delivery base, for example, where there is obviously free loading capacity. Of course, this is great for a demonstration of how the logistics of a functioning food delivery service can work.

Shelter in the Postbahnhof

In Darmstadt, on the other hand, where Picnic has just opened, the e-vehicles will be accommodated much closer to the city: in the old Postbahnhof (right next to the main train station), on the side of which the corresponding charging infrastructure has been installed.

According to the owner, Picnic has rented around 1,800 square meters there (for at least eight and a half years), where the ready-picked purchases are also reloaded into the e-speedsters.

Picnic City Hub near Darmstadt's main train station.

This shows quite nicely that the picnic model is simple for customers – but has to overcome some challenges in location logistics because new city hubs are constantly needed for expansion. (Unlike, for example, the model of the Norwegian provider Oda, which wanted to bring purchases from a huge central warehouse with larger delivery vehicles to more distant destinations.)

At the same time, however, the decentralised structure makes it possible to test food delivery at locations where central warehouses would otherwise not be built. From Berlin, Picnic probably also wants to open up Frankfurt (Oder), for example. (At least they are currently looking for runners for the Frankfurter Tor Nordost industrial estate.)

How does discount work online?

At first, customers don't notice much of all this. The decisive factor for them is first and foremost whether the service offered meets their shopping needs – and who, in the case of Aldi vs. Picnic, is better able to translate the discount principle into online food retailing.

While Florian Kolf in the "Handelsblatt" tends to see Aldi's chances as positive ("comes at exactly the right time"), Jochen Krisch takes the opposite position at Exciting Commerce ("delivery service [...], which visibly lacks the business model").

Picnic has a decisive advantage in this competition: The company already has many years of experience in how customers buy groceries online and what they value – in other words, exactly what Aldi now has to work hard to achieve. (Which the e-commerce expert from the Niederrhein University of Applied Sciences, who was interviewed by dpa, curiously thinks is "smart" – well.)

At the same time, the Dutch and their head of Germany, Frederic Knaudt, can continue to belt out their greatest hit: free delivery thanks to fixed delivery routes.

Free delivery from 50 euros

Aldi Süd fails to catch up with this promise: If you want to be delivered by "My Aldi", you pay 4.50 euros in delivery costs, at least if you order for less than 50 euros. Purchases with a value of goods above this limit are then free of charge.

And even if Aldi has to interpret this as a disadvantage in a direct comparison with Picnic, the challenger has set by far the lowest value for free delivery in the German online grocery trade.

Bringmeister delivers free of charge from 100 euros; Rewe from 120 euros (except on region-specific free delivery days); Amazon Fresh from 80 euros, but with an additional paid Prime subscription as a prerequisite. Aldi can also top the previous frontrunners Flaschenpost and Flink, which no longer charge delivery fees from a value of 59 euros (location: Berlin). Only Gorillas/Getir are currently below this due to the promotion, but it is unclear how long this will last.

In any case, the free delivery limit can be understood primarily as an incentive to let customers make a comprehensive discount purchase via Mein Aldi, 50 euros should be a realistic value for Aldi regular customer households in which several people live.

What size of assortment would you like?

Picnic and Mein Aldi differ most clearly in their product ranges: Picnic wants to offer its customers around 10,000 items via app, 20 percent of which, according to media reports, will be private labels from its co-owner Edeka and increasingly also under its own PL name.

A total of 3,000 items are currently available at Mein Aldi, including branded products (to be precise: 3,019, as of 31.8.). However, this does not have to be a disadvantage if customers who have previously shopped in the store either keep themselves or even let themselves be poached by the discount competition. (The extent to which Mein Aldi emphasizes its organic range in the main menu is another indication of which target group you may have in mind.)

On the other hand, Aldi also allows orders to be placed via a classic web shop; Picnic allows purchases to be made exclusively via the app.

Customers still have to live with restrictions such as those found in classic discount stores with both providers: The milkman heirs cannot deliver drinks in reusable crates due to the limited space in the e-speedsters, but only in six-packs.

"Bonus bundle" for stock buyers

Nevertheless, Aldi will probably have to learn a few moves from other delivery services over time: Picnic, for example, gives its customers discounts on brands and private labels if they order several packs of them in stock. The Dutch have even registered their own trademark for it: "Bonus bundle".

The former Edeka investment Bringmeister has been doing the same for some time; and Rewe now also promises different discounts from its delivery service, especially on private labels, if customers buy in advance.

Meanwhile, the "bonus bundle" at Picnic hasn't really settled in yet. For example, in the case of several products that have currently been reduced in price, the change has not yet been reflected for the bundles: Fresh pasture milk from Arla Bio currently no longer costs 1.99 euros (at the Berlin location), but only 1.49 euros. In a bundle of four, however, the price is still 1.85 euros per unit. It's the same with the handkerchiefs of Picnic's own brand: instead of 1.45 euros, they now cost only 1.29 euros, but in a bundle of two, they still cost 1.39 euros.

Instead of placing bundles in the shopping cart, it is therefore advisable to increase the quantity of the individual item for the stock purchase. (And for Picnic to do its assortment work a little more carefully.)

Only one thing is certain: the delivery discount is spreading. He just hasn't quite decided yet what exactly form he wants to take.


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