Albrecht Discount Inc., globally known as Aldi, is a German based family owned global discount chain of supermarkets. Aldi constitutes of two independent groups, that are Aldi Nord (North) and Aldi Sud (South) legally and economically independent but family related (Aldi Sud Business, 2013). It is the market leader in the industry of international grocery retailing and owns and operates chain of discount grocery stores in Europe, Australia and United States. It’s stores retail and supply general merchandise and food including meat products, fresh meat, frozen and refrigerated foods, sweets and snacks, dairy and bakery products, beverages and pantry items in addition to home care and personal care products (Report Linker, 2013).
In the present Aldi Inc.’s strategic analysis is carried out to identify and evaluate its strategies against its business environment to critically analyze whether the strategies pursued by Aldi are effective in maintaining its market leader position or not. In doing so environmental analysis of international grocery retailing industry is carried out to bring about the opportunities and threats the industry is facing and SWOT analysis is carried out to shed light on Aldi’s strengths and weaknesses and opportunities and threats the industry is facing on the whole.
Aldi’s strategies are then evaluated against the SWOT to analyze the effectiveness of its strategies in maintaining its market position.
2. Brief Background on Aldi
Aldi Inc., was founded by Karl Albrecht and Theo Albrecht in 1913 in Essen and started trading in bakery products, later in 1914 Karl Albrecht’s wife Anna Albrecht opened the first grocery store. In 1919 they acquired a commercial and residential building in Essen and enlarge the grocery store. 1945 the brothers took over the family business and opened more stores and by the end of 1948 they were four Albrecht stores. In 1954 Albrecht expanded further more and opened its stores outside Essen and branch enlargement took place with 77 stores with core business as food self service. In 1961 two legally separate groups were established known as Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord yet the family remained connected. 1962 first ALDI – Albrecht Discount branched was opened in the discount principle and entire branch network was changed into ALDI format.
Gradually internationalized its business by first entering in Austria with acquisition of Hofer retail chain, then further expanded in Germany, entered in the United States, UK, Ireland, Australia, Switzerland, Slovenia and Hungary, in that order (Aldi Sud Facts and Figures, 2013). Aldi Group is active in nine European countries and in European market is one of the leading retail companies and a well known retail chain all over the world. Aldi Sud is into retail food trade and comprises of 31 companies located in Southern and Western Germany and Aldi Nord operates its own branch network of 2500 outlets in the northern and eastern Germany (Aldi Sud Business, 2013; Aldi Nord, 2013). Aldi Group has more than 10000 stores worldwide with annual turnover of 75bn yet its core market is Germany (Fitzgerald, 2013). Aldi stores are known for their efficiency, no frills stores, low levels of staff, few big brand names and modest opening hours (Fitzgerald, 2013).
Their main core competency is cut price through cost cutting, selling cheap and low quality products(Grocery.com, 2013) and its mission is “simply smarter shopping” (Aldi US, 2013). Aldi’s big rivals include TESCO, Morrison’s, Sainsbury, Asda, Carrefour and Lidl (Sky News, 2013; Butler and Bowers, 2013). The Albrecht’s has expanded into new territories but remains a closely guarded company and never disclose its profit margins citing commercial sensitivity and do not share much information with other branches managers (Fitzgerald, 2013). Aldi has to triple its staff and check outs to cater to the extra one million customers coming to its 500 stores in UK. The firm shunned premium big brands for its cut price own versions of premium ranges to attract new customers looking for cheaper products (Steiner, 2013). The retail market is seeing intense competition and big retail supermarkets are losing market share to discount stores and up market grocers such as Aldi all over Europe and other international markets.
3. Market Identification of Aldi
It is an intensely family owned private company. Both Aldi Sud and Aldi Nord operate in retail markets however Aldi Nord mainly in Europe whereas Aldi Sud operates in the United States and Australia among other international locations. It has Aldi stores are located in Germany, Austria, Australia, Denmark, France, Belgium, Greece, Ireland, Hungary, Netherlands, Luxemburg, Poland, Slovenia, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, United states operating in 36 states and United Kingdom (Grocer.com, 2013). Its customers are mainly ‘do it yourself’ shoppers and bargain hunters (Grocer.com, 2013). Aldi in 2013 has outshined its biggest rivals in UK with doubling in annual profits and sales increase of 40.6% being a cut price grocer and holds 3.7% of market share in UK (Steiner, 2013; Sky news, 2013). It earned profit of 157.9 million in 2012 from 70.5 million in 2011 and sales increased from 2.7 billion in 2011 to 3.8 billion in 2012.
It opened 34 new stores that were crucial in its strong performance in 2012 (Steiner, 2013). Aldi Ireland revenues increased by 30.7% in 2012 outstripping its German rival Lidl, opened 3 more stores, in addition to 40 stores in Ireland that are being refurbished or extended. Together Lidl and Aldi control 12.5% of Irish grocery market (Fitzgerald, 2013). Aldi United states’ annual revenue is $68,700 million (U.S) with 1400 stores in 36 states employing 11,000 employees (Grocer.com. 2013). Aldi SUD in Germany consists of 31 independent companies, with more than 1820 branches, employing more than 33,600 employees (Aldi Facts and Figures, 2013). Aldi Nord operates in Eastern, Western and Northern Germany with around 2500 outlets (Aldi Nord, 2013)
4. Environmental Analysis
International grocery retailing industry is facing intense competition and become a real battleground, retailing giants are offering plenty of price discounts to attract customers, that is seriously impacting their suppliers and pressure to regulate the sector is growing (Fitzgerald, 2013). The following section analyzes in detail the opportunities and threats the retail grocery industry is facing through PESTEL Analysis.
4.1 PESTEL Analysis
4.1.1 Political factors
Legislators of European countries are being pressurized to regulate the retail market because intense competition and price cut is negatively impacting the manufacturers and suppliers (Fitzgerald, 2013). Retail companies are being accused of paying the lowest price to their suppliers, which is harming their business seriously, and are on the brink of collapse. Political campaigns are being carried out and interest groups are asking customers not to buy products their because of that (Osborne, 2012).
4.1.2 Economical factors
Economic slowdown in developed countries and Euro zone crises has affected the industry greatly as customers with less income to dispense are forced to shop for cheaper and retailers owned goods swallowing their brand and switching from expensive brands. High flying retail giants are feeling the pinch as there was considerable drop in their sales and profits and more and more customers are switching to discount stores and up market grocers (Butler and Bowers, 2013). Cash strapped households due to shrinking in their budgets as a result of high inflation that is not proportional to wage rises are flocking to discount stores (Sky News, 2013). The below graph shows consumer retail expenditure five year growth rate of UK (Verdict, 2009).
Figure 1: Total consumer retail expenditure of UK- five year growth rate (Verdict, 2009) Burgeoning population, rise in immigration, developed nations beginning to emerge from recession and economic recoveries, falling in unemployment rates, urbanization leading to renewal of growth in retail industry. Disposable income, GDP and consumer spending are the macroeconomic factors that affect retail industry directly (Reuters, 2012). Asia pacific is dominating the industry as it driving the increase in global retail trade, representing 35% of the global retail market and will grow highest among all other regions between 2012 and 2017 (Reuters, 2013).
4.1.3 Social and cultural factors
Consumers are becoming more and more socially responsible and considering increasingly the social impact of their purchases and supporting mainly those retailers who are also socially responsible and assert sustainable practices. Consumers are avoiding retailers who they think are irresponsible, encourage sweat shops, exploit suppliers, and outsource manufacturing and carryout unethical practices. Consumer preferences are changing more rapidly than ever before and retailers are struggling to cope up with their changing preferences. Economic recession is giving rise to generational differences, as whole generation experiencing recession are using money more cautiously and less credit cards (Mack, 2013).
4.1.4 Technology factors
Technology is changing the way consumers shop retail products and the way retail businesses operate in bad and good ways. Online retail shopping has increased in manifolds along with creating more awareness among consumers, leading to price comparisons to find the best deal across the world. It is presenting both opportunity and threat as technology is helping in boosting retail stores performance but also forcing them to adapt to new changes brought forward by technology or else give way to competitors who are doing so (Mock, 2013). Technological growth such as mobile commerce has provided opportunity for retailers to better interact with customers and give them more convenience and better service (Reuters, 2013). RFD Radio Frequency Identification Device has facilitated end to end tracking of ingredients and better stock control through business intelligence tools (PWC, 2013).
4.1.5 Environmental Factors
Retail chains are being pressurized to be more socially responsible and adopt sustainable practices as their low price strategies are affecting the suppliers and the environment as a whole. Retailers are also accused of harming the environment as they are blamed for increased consumption of food products and causing global food insecurity and also for increased used of harmful plastic material for packaging. They are also accused of indulging in unethical practices to drive the products prices down and not caring for the environment (UNEP, 2003). To minimize this negative trend retail chains have to sustainable materials for packaging and carrying and in turn putting that costs on consumers (Osborne, 2012).
4.1.6 Legal factors
Tax issues such as VAT, excise duties, environmental and property taxes, HR taxes, cross border transactions tax issues, corporation taxes and compliance with laws and legislations and increasing costs of corporate social responsibility are presenting challenges to retail industry and increasing their cost of operations. Accounting regulations like adopting of IFRS and passing of Sarbanes Oxley legislation on demand of stakeholders heightened the regulatory pressures on the retail and consumer industry (PWC, 2013).
4.2 Key Trends affecting the industry
Consumers are switching from up market retail chains to low price retail chains (Butler and Bowers, 2013). Price inflation of retail products putting more pressure on retailers to decrease its impact on customers and cut down on profit margins (Butler and Bowers, 2013). E commerce and M commerce are increasing leading to increase in online retail (Mack, 2013) Customers are more aware and comparing prices online to gain best deal (Mack, 2013) Burgeoning population, urbanization, economic recovery are renewing growth in retail sector (Reuters, 2013). Consumers preferences are changing more rapidly than before (Mack, 2013)
Consumers are seeking more convenience and using other mode of payments like credit card, debit card etc. (Osborne, 2012; Mack, 2013), New consuming habits such as value shopping in FMCG products and clothing, luxury shopping in furniture and technology (PWC, 2013). Trends towards retailers being more socially responsible and sustainable retailing (PWC, 2013). Consumers supporting local suppliers and against outsourcing (Fitzgerald, 2013) Customer polarization that is have are shopping in up market stores, have not shopping more in low price stores, driving the growth of the industry (Sky News, 2013). Global retail trade growth is driven by Asia Pacific markets and will see highest growth rate.
5. SWOT Analysis
Highly efficient stores, staff levels are kept low, operates with only few big brand names and opening hours are fairly modest (Fitzgerald, 2013). High brand value and large extended network of branches covering major developed markets in the world. Continuous expansion in new markets to cater to increased footfall of customers. Basic packaging and limited advertising to keep costs low.
Cost advantage derived from economies of scale (Fitzgerald, 2013) Own cheap luxury brands giving stiff competition to expensive luxury brands (Fitzgerald, 2013) Increase in sales mainly coming from new stores (Butler and Bowers, 2013) Discount pricing are impressively cheaper attracting shoppers away from bigger retail giants such as Tesco, Sainsbury Cherry pick bargains offered by Aldi increasing the number of shoppers (Butler and Bowers, 2013) Robust growth over the years (Fitzgerald, 2013)
Good for buying staples (Ferruza, 2011)
In England Aldi does not accept payments through credit card restricting customers who want to pay through credit cards (Osborne, 2012) Charges customers for a carrier bag (Osborne, 2012) Low staff levels not able to handle increased customer footfall Reputation damaged because of recent horsemeat scandal and employee spying accusations (Snoops, 2013; Stuart, 2013; The Guardian, 2013). Serious limitation of product selection only 2800 products varieties are offered while other supermarket offer 30000 and shopping cart has to be rented for a quarter, (returned later after cart is kept back) (Grocery.com; Ferruza, 2013) Less glamorous store , interior ambience of stores is not so great, stores are like warehouses, does not decorate shelves, spends very less in packaging, stocking and transportation (Grocery.com, 2013) Stocks low quality products (Ferruzza, 2011).
Less glamorous stores, ambience not attractive in stores, it’s like warehouse style store, no frills Stocks low quality products
Limited product selection
Low level of staff
Charges for carrier bags and shopping carts
Does not accept payment through credit cards
Reputation damaged due to horse meat scandal and employee spying Sells mostly
own brands label and limits the number of outside brands Very low advertising and store promotion and only in-house advertising
Economic recovery in development markets, burgeoning population, urbanization renewing growth Technology such as m-commerce and e-commerce increasing sales Customer polarization increasing discount retailers sale
Economic slowdown in the past, inflation and high unemployment rate forcing customers to buy cheaper products Global retail trade growth is high in Asia pacific region and driving the market Price inflation moving customers to discount stores
Customers inclination towards sustainability, corporate social responsibility and preference to local suppliers threatening the cost efficiency of discount stores Taxation, and heightened regulations
Technology creating operational complexities
Consumer changing consuming habits and preferences threatening the industry
6. Identification and evaluation of the Strategies pursued by Aldi
Aldi’s competitive strategy is to gain competitive advantage over its rivals through efficiency. Its competitive strategy is low cost leadership that it derives from economies of scale, cost efficiency, low staff level, low quality products, limited product selection and high bargaining power with suppliers (Fitzgerald, 2013; Butler and Bowers, 2013; Steiner, 2013). Its strategy to achieve its mission of simple smarter shopping it has implemented the following strategies in view of its changing business environment.
6.1 Strategies implemented by ALDI
Constant rolling out new stores with increased size between 10,000 and 15,000 sq.ft in all countries it is operating (Fitzgerald, 2013). Backward vertical integration, producing cheaper luxury products to attract consumers who are switching from expensive luxury brands (Grocery.com; Fitzgerald, 2013). Renovation and expansion of existing stores (Fitzgerald, 2013). Started using advertising campaigns to attract more up-market customers to promote its own luxury brand labels deviating from its past strategies (Butler and Bowers, 2013). Increased checkout points and staff level in its store to cater to extra one million customers coming to its stores all over Europe (Steiner, 2013).
Delivering high value to customers who are looking for cheaper deals through efficiency in transportation, presentation and packaging (Steiner, 2013). Online sales and apps for attracting internet savvy consumer and engaging customers through social networks (Aldi App, 2013). Sustainable sourcing and reducing environmental impact through recycling and minimum packaging (Aldi Nord, 2013).
6.2 Critical Evaluation of the Strategies
In view of Aldi Inc.’s SWOT and the strategies it has implemented it can be said that Aldi’s strategies are in sync with its changing business environment and taking advantage of its strengths and minimizing its weaknesses. By expanding its store sizes, renovating and redecorating its existing stores and opening new stores of bigger sizes it has tried to minimize its weakness of less glamorous warehouse type store. And by opening more stores consistently over the years it is taking advantage of burgeoning population that is resulting in increase of customer footfall (Fitzgerald, 2013). It has also taken care of its weakness of low staff level and increased staff level and checkouts to cater to increased customer footfall (Steiner, 2013). It has started rolling out advertising campaigns for promotions to attract luxury customers and elevated its market positioning by retailing luxury products and changing its reputation of a retailer of low quality products (Butler and Bowers, 2013).
Aldi is gradually moving from discount store principle to convenient store principle, opening stores in affluent locations, offering luxury products, delivering both value and quality to broaden its consumer base (Skynews, 2013). Through vertical backward integration it has taken advantage of the opportunity presented by the consumer shifting from expensive luxury products to comparatively cheaper luxury products by producing its own luxury label offering them at less price. Broaden its customer base by opening stores in affluent locations and changing its positioning from a discount store to a convenient store, this is to take advantage of opportunity presented by economic recoveries of developed countries. It has sustained its cost efficiency competitive advantage by lessening costs on packaging, transportation and offering cherry deals. Aldi apps facilitate m-commerce, and it also sells online and interacts with customers using social networks, thus it is taking advantage of opportunities presented by digital media technology.
It has minimized threat presented by environmental factors by adopting recycling and has become more socially responsible by adopting sustainable practices for sourcing to minimize the threat presented by customers inclination towards sustainability. However Aldi has not fully taken advantages of other opportunities such as taking advantage of growing Asia Pacific market, it is operating only in Australia and has not yet entered Asian countries where high growth is expected and many governments have opened foreign direct investment in retailing. Price inflation of products and heightened laws and regulations will threaten its cost leadership strategy and in future might increase its operational costs and it may not be able to sustain its competitive strategy for long however it has not taken any measures to address these threats. Increasing staff level will increase its labor costs adding to its operational costs further.
Aldi Inc. is evolving and implementing strategies to take advantage of opportunities and thwart threats presented by its environment by exploiting its strengths and reducing or eliminating its weaknesses. It has resulted in success as Aldi has experienced great success in 2013 with increased profit and sales compared to other supermarket chains however it may not be able to sustain its competitive advantage for long because prices and costs are increasing and profit margins are decreasing with retail market being saturated in developed countries, it has to expand its operations into new markets for sustaining growth and maintaining market leader position.
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