Delaware calls itself The First State but for discounter Aldi, it’s been one of the last. In fact, of states along the U.S. East Coast, only Maine has waited longer to get an Aldi store—it’s still waiting, actually—while Delaware has now seen three Aldis open over the past year. Just last month, Aldi opened for the first time just outside of Wilmington, the largest and most densely populated city in the state.
Unlike many of its stores, the Wilmington Aldi was not a ground-up build but a reuse of a portion of a former Best Buy store that closed in a relocation two years ago. The other half of the building has been leased to Planet Fitness.
Passing through Wilmington recently, WGB made an unofficial visit and shopping trip, discovering strong pricing and much expanded variety—albeit with a little more evidence of the new store’s popularity than the retailer might like, with some areas badly shopped down and not yet fully replenished on a Saturday afternoon.
One employee remarked that at least some of the heavy traffic since the May 17 opening was coming from Aldi regulars who are now driving less than they used to, transferring trips from what was the nearest existing Aldi store—located about 13 miles away across the state line in Elkton, Md. That store will see a renovation soon, recent reports said.
Backlit signs around the store perimeter, such as this one above the baked goods, are also a new design element in Aldi’s new and remodeled stores. In addition to a $3.4 billion new-store spree expected to grow the chain to 2,500 U.S. stores by the end of 2022, the company last year announced a $1.6 billion commitment to upgrade and expand nearly its entire existing store fleet.
Some stores in the remodeled and new fleet include a kind of service bakery, although that was not included in the Wilmington store. This store also lacked beer and wine departments, but that’s a function of state law.
Tiered Private Label
Another major element of Aldi’s strategic repositioning in recent years is evidence in nearly every category of tiered private labels, with basic “national brand equivalent” items under a stable of Aldi labels, such as the Tuscan Garden offering on the left, alongside a natural/organic version under the cross-category Simply Nature brand. Specially Selected is Aldi’s premium line and is also available across multiple categories.
Out of the Box Thinking
Aldi’s legendary efficiency runs not only to straight-to-the-shelf cases but also straight-to-the-shelf cases that combine multiple SKUs. The pastas pictured here include three varieties per case, identified on the box, and presumably offer the opportunity to triple the speed at which their section can be stocked.
The fresh meat case features varieties of Black Angus USDA Choice prepacked items. Like several areas of the store, this was well-shopped by the time of WGB’s Saturday-afternoon visit.