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Germany: Competition for Aldi, Lidl, Rewe and Co. this new German format wants to take off

Updated: Jun 12, 2023

Here, customers become co-owners of the supermarket: Tante Enso is pursuing an extraordinary business concept and wants to better supply small towns in Germany. There is a wide range of products and the shops are open 24 hours a day. How the concept works and what it means for established supermarkets.

"Aunt Enso" instead of Aunt Emma: The online supermarket MyEnso plans to open up to 700 mini-supermarkets in small communities in Germany. The special thing about Tante Enso is the cooperative model, because the customers are also shareholders in the supermarket and can have a say in the product range themselves.

In order for a new branch to be opened, at least 300 citizens must contribute up to 100 euros at the respective location. This is how the initial financing should succeed. In the long term, MyEnso wants to close supply gaps in rural areas.

Can this work? CHIP spoke about this with Stephan Rüschen. He is a professor of food retail at the Baden-Württemberg Cooperative State University in Heilbronn and observes the development of smart stores. He estimates that there are up to 8000 underserved areas in Germany that would benefit from a concept like Tante Enso. "The citizens will then have a local supplier in the village again."

In addition, according to Rüschen, the business model creates another incentive: "A cooperative concept makes sense because it can also get an emotional commitment from the citizens. Citizens then see the store as "their" store." So far, the company has opened almost 20 stores in Germany. But there is another special feature: How does Tante Enso work? Tante Enso is a smart store with a 24/7 concept. This means that the stores largely do not require cashiers, are open around the clock and are located in a comparatively small area. MyEnso requires a minimum of 800 square meters.

In order to be able to buy milk, sausage and other groceries outside of staffed opening hours, customers must register in advance online or in the store and receive a Tante-Enso customer card. With this, they can enter the store at any time, just like at a bank branch, and pay with it at the same time.

The loyalty card can be topped up with any amount of money. If you don't want to top up the card all the time, you can also deposit a direct debit mandate in which the amount to be paid is automatically debited from your bank account.

Profitable from the 45th market MyEnso's smart stores are designed to reduce long waiting times at checkouts and help retailers in the face of increasing staff shortages. "Such concepts are operated at very low costs and can therefore actually become profitable relatively quickly," says retail expert Stephan Rüschen. According to MyEnso, the mini-supermarkets are worthwhile from the 45th market.

Until then, financing the markets is sometimes a challenge for the company. Compared to the "Abendblatt" said managing director and founder Thorsten Bausch in May: "We are a start-up and have not yet put on so much meat that we could fill a financing gap just like that." Due to financial problems, the refrigerated shelves in the municipality of Gülzow were temporarily empty. However, this crisis has been overcome.

Aunt Enso is supposed to convey the feeling of Aunt Emma, at least as far as the proximity to the residents is concerned. At the various locations, customers can put together the assortment of the mini-supermarkets themselves. Product requests can be submitted via an online form or by e-mail - in addition, there is a "wish-you-what" board in each store. MyEnso then tries to procure the corresponding product from its wholesalers. For example, if you want a certain chocolate pudding, you usually have to wait four weeks for the pudding to be on the shelf.

Aunt Enso: A danger for Aldi, Lidl, Rewe and Co.? Up to 700 branches, open around the clock and a modern business concept: That sounds like competition for the large, established supermarkets and discounters such as Aldi, Lidl, Rewe and Co. In addition to the on-site product range, customers can also have the products delivered to their homes via the MyEnso online shop.

The company offers over 20,000 products in its online shop and has a large selection of different branded products from large and small manufacturers - but also items at discount prices such as from the manufacturer "Every Day". A liter of milk from this manufacturer costs 1.15 euros, while a 250-gram packet of butter costs 1.89 euros.

Nevertheless, Rüschen does not see any competition for the established supermarkets and discounters in Tante Enso: "The sales that can be achieved are relatively low. Citizens do not use the shops for their weekly shopping, but for supplementary and spontaneous shopping. Aldi, Lidl, Edeka and Co. will not suffer as a result." Auf der anderen Seite experimentieren die etablierten Hersteller selbst mit neuen Geschäftskonzepten, allen voran Rewe. In bisher zwei "Pick and Go"-Filialen in München und Köln können Rewe-Kunden den Supermarkt einfach verlassen, ohne an der Kasse zu warten - die Bezahlung erfolgt automatisch, der genaue Kaufpreis wird über Gewichtssensoren und Kameras ermittelt.

Rüschen has observed that Rewe now also operates three "nahkauf box" branches in small communities that are open 24 hours a day. Other companies are also pursuing a strategy similar to that of Tante Enso and Rewe. Above all Teo with around 25 stores in Germany and Tante M with around 45 stores. There are also isolated local initiatives that operate such mini-supermarkets autonomously.

"We estimate that by the end of 2024 we will have up to 1,000 such shops in rural Germany," says the food retail expert. "It will continue after 2024. 8,000 underserved areas means that there is great potential to be tapped." At which locations will there be "Aunt Enso"? According to its own information, MyEnso has already received 900 inquiries from municipalities from all over Germany who are interested in a Tante-Enso market. For this to happen, however, various conditions must be met.

The potential location should have at least 1000 inhabitants and a distance of at least six kilometers to the nearest supermarket. In addition, there is the jointly collected start-up capital of at least 30,000 euros. It was only in April of this year that a "Tante Enso" opened in Wörlitz in Saxony-Anhalt. There are other branches, for example, in Gülzow, Zella or Wollbach.

Stores are also planned in Toppenstedt and Emtinghausen, two municipalities in Lower Saxony. Here, the number of shareholders has already been reached, as can be seen on the MyEnso's website that is. There you can also track which cities are still in the financing process.


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