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Annals of Marketing
Marketing the Aldi Way - A Note on Theo Albrecht
Monday, 7th March, 2011  - David Farmer
A reclusive Theo Albrecht photographed in 1971

There are over 10,000 Aldi stores worldwide. The brothers Theo and Karl Albrecht commenced retailing after World War II, when they took over their parent's small grocery store in the town of Essen. A time of despair and austerity led to the fertile idea of expanding a chain of stores built around the simple principles of offering a limited range of goods at the lowest possible prices. This may seem obvious, but it's as revolutionary today as it was back then. It returned grocery retailing to its most pure and simple form, the local town store, no frills, compact in size with parking.

The Albrecht's polished several simple ideas; customers did not need to choose from a wide range and offered instead 'a one size fits all' package of all the basic everyday items. A natural extension was to offer unbranded products based on the premise that they would sell if markedly cheaper than recognised brands.

Basic retailing brings considerable advantages as stores are much cheaper to operate and manage and the limited range means smaller stores which are cheaper to build. In store the customer is free from being manipulated as the offer is reduced to a simple fundamental idea, we are cheap. It is far harder to buy unnecessary items and impossible to be fooled by variable pack sizes and bonus offers as there are none. That is why these types of stores are the purest and most honest form of retailing; and are an anathema to a full size supermarket retailer and naturally appall big brand manufacturers who appeal to customers with large marketing budgets.

As they expanded into prosperous counties like Australia, which had not seen this approach, they were not perceived as a threat but they have had a marked impact, particularly with competitors expanding the range of non branded products.

The corner store of the 1920s can never return, but by shopping at Aldi you at least get close. Aldi has returned power to the customer where the thrifty and frugal can get all they need, with no marketing tricks, in a shop where all is pared to the bone with the considerable savings visibly going to the customer. If retailing can have its own beauty then the methods of Aldi are beautiful to look at.

Theo Albrecht died in July, 2010, aged 88.

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