Finance Consumer Special buys without the queues? Aldi online offerings ‘inevitable’, but shoppers may pay more

Special buys without the queues? Aldi online offerings ‘inevitable’, but shoppers may pay more

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The pandemic has accelerated the rise of eCommerce, but discount supermarket chain Aldi, famous for its so-called ‘aisle-of-dreams’ where shoppers have snagged everything from turntables to e-bikes, has resisted the make the move to online shopping.

That could change though, with Aldi’s Australia boss flagging the possibility of online offerings in the future, including alcohol and the cult favourite ‘special buys’.

Aldi chief executive Tom Daunt revealed on Tuesday the discount chain would inevitably give in to the demand for online shopping, but did not specify a timeframe.

“We are likely to start with something more exciting like wine or special buys online before we would entertain a full grocery offer,” Mr Daunt told News Corp.

Don’t get too excited just yet.

A spokesperson for Aldi hosed down speculation of an imminent online launch.

“We understand Australian shoppers are always seeking convenience in their busy lives,” the spokesperson told The New Daily.

“As our CEO Tom Daunt mentioned today, it is inevitable that eCommerce will be part of our future.

“Everything we do, we do with our ‘Good Different’ approach to business, so as we look at how we bring this to Aldi shoppers, we’ll ensure this doesn’t compromise our ability to give customers exceptional value on high-quality items.”

Why Aldi hasn’t made the leap to online yet

German-born Aldi is celebrating two decades in Australia this year, and the firm has become known for its slow-and-steady approach to establishing itself as a supermarket force alongside Woolworths and Coles.

“Aldi’s play book has always been to take a very cautious and staged approach to market penetration,” Queensland University of Technology retail expert Gary Mortimer said.

“They started with two stores in Sydney 20 years ago, aggressively built distribution centres, and then opened stores across Victoria, Queensland, and it’s still progressing.”

When it comes to the eCommerce revolution, Aldi has been slower than its competitors for a good reason – online overheads could work against its discount model, Professor Mortimer explained.

“The CEO has come out to say it’s possibly in our future, but given no specific date. And I think the reason for that is just simply the significant cost involved in moving from a bricks-and-mortar physical retailer to a multi-channel online retailer,” he said.

However, the pandemic may have forced Aldi to reconsider its eCommerce options, having “certainly accelerated online shopping”, Professor Mortimer said.

Shoppers likely to pay more online than in store

One issue Aldi faces with online shopping is how to keep happy customers who come to them for low-cost offerings.

This may mean that non-perishable goods, not cut-price fruit and veg, are on the menu, Professor Mortimer said.

“If they move online they’ll probably do something with alcohol, which makes sense, and they might do something with special buys, which tends to be general merchandise and apparel products, which is very robust and not as perishable as food, particularly fresh food,” he said.

The fact that Aldi is a “low-cost food operator” means customers do a lot of the heavy lifting, which keeps costs down, Professor Mortimer explained.

“You walk to the store, you bring your own bags, you have to pack your own groceries, you pick your own groceries out of cardboard boxes, and off pallets,” he said.

“As you go online, you ultimately need to do that for the customer.

“So you need to employ people, you need to build fulfilment centres so that products are able to be picked and packed and to have delivery drivers or a third party provider to do that service for you.

“All of those things add to the complexity and the cost of doing online, which naturally adds to the cost of the product. And that pushes the prices up.”

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