Germany: Is this what the future of Aldi, Lidl and Co. looks like?

The Corona crisis has radically changed the shopping behavior of consumers, this could now have far-reaching consequences. Retailers are testing new store concepts around the world. Customers should be able to do their purchases faster, more hygienically and without the classic checkout process. What that means for shopping for groceries at discount retailers as Aldi, Lidl, Penny (part of Rewe) and Netto (part of EDEKA).

No one can really estimate how long the coronavirus will keep us busy. In addition to the many restrictions, the pandemic has also changed our shopping behavior. Customers go shopping at Aldi, Lidl, Rewe or Edeka less often, but when buying groceries there, they put significantly more goods on the checkout belt.

But that's not all: In order to measure the success of the stores of Lidl, Aldi and Co., the supermarkets and discounters analyse the shopping lists of the customers. The higher the average basket value per customer, the more successful the store is. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, the per capita basket is said to have increased significantly, especially in the centrally located stores.

On the so-called green field, however, the supermarkets are struggling with falling sales. This is also due to the fact that the neighboring construction and furniture stores remained closed due to the two severe shutdowns. Supermarkets, discounters, drugstores and food retailers want to gradually break away from this dependency.

The aim is for customers to shop more often, for the shops to serve customers even at night and for the shops to be easily accessible by bus, train and bike.

Corona crisis brings Aldi, Lidl and Co. to city centers

For supermarkets, discounters and grocery stores, it has been the case all these years: customers drive to Aldi, Lidl, Rewe, Edeka, Kaufland or Real and shop there for the week. Commercial areas with large parking areas were therefore particularly lucrative. However, city stores are booming, as consumers can shop on the way home from work. The so-called green field has long since expanded. Shopping for groceries in the city center saves time and money.

It is no secret that the big supermarket chains increasingly want to go to the city centers and that local politicians are hoping that this will revive the city centers. However, the retailers will also demand consideration for the billions in investments. For example, the German retail industry insists on longer opening times in order to supply customers with food until late at night.

At the same time, discounters and supermarkets are using the central retail space to set up digital delivery hubs and to deliver groceries to surrounding neighborhoods by bike, scooter or public transport. Industry experts keep saying that smart city stores and digital urban stores are considered the future of shopping.

Little groceries, no shopping carts and hardly any gaps in the shelves

The urban stores of the future will be equipped with popular foods. With so-called fast movers, discounters, supermarkets and retailers focus exclusively on food that customers always buy.

These include milk, butter, yogurt, vegetables, meat, drinks and bread. You won't find non-food in these branches, just like unusual products. "The aim is for customers to be able to transport their daily purchases by bus, train or bicycle," say the developers. This is another reason why there are no shopping carts in the urban stores, only baskets.

The small range helps employees to quickly fill empty shelves with goods. "Empty sales areas cause a lot of damage because the gaps remain unused", reveal the experts from shopfitter Wanzl.

There are no empty shelves in the urban stores. Because the shelves use sensors to evaluate customer needs at any time, algorithms can make targeted suggestions to employees as to which products are selling well or badly.

Overall, sensors on ceilings, floors and shelves are the heart of the stores.