Running a business is about knowing how to anticipate, change in response to, and adapt to changing market conditions. Often, past experience can be a guide. But the recent coronavirus pandemic has brought disruption to the global economy not seen in a century. No company in the world is unaffected.
We’ve already seen Aldi deploy some of the adjustments other grocers have made: safety measures for its workers and customers, adjusted operating hours, and special hours for the vulnerable, just to name a few. In addition, Aldi has shifted its inventory to better deal with increased demand in staple items, which means less essential items are getting less floor space.
At the center — literally — of the store is the Aldi Find section, that mysterious place where Aldi sells a little bit of everything. Aldi Finds are fun, but they’re not essential, so it’s no surprise that Aldi has shifted its Aldi Find strategy in the midst of the pandemic.
Here are five observations.
1. The Aldi Find Selection is Smaller
One of the first things we noticed is how, at a certain point, the Aldi Find print ad got a serious shrinking. Instead of four to five pages, it was down to two. It’s gotten a little bigger of late, but we expect there to be some fluctuations as Aldi finds the right balance given its in-store situation.
2. The Pandemic Shapes the Product Line
There are a couple of ways we’ve seen Aldi modify what Aldi Finds it sells.
For starters, we’ve seen a change in what kinds of non-food products are being sold, with a special emphasis on what is most likely to be useful in a world of restricted travel and social distancing. That means if you’ve been waiting a year for something to come back, but Aldi thinks it won’t sell, the odds are probably lower than in previous years that it will make it to stores.
Sometimes you can even pick out the subtext of the pandemic in the ad, although Aldi never mentions it specifically.
We’ve also seen fewer food items in the ads. This, we suspect, is about Aldi focusing in on staple products that are in the highest demand, rather than devoting shelf space to niche items that may not be in as much demand and may not sell as well.
3. The Calendar May Be Changing
Longtime Aldi shoppers may have noticed that many products tend to come out at specific times of year. With the revamping of the ad, though, it’s possible Aldi may delay certain Aldi Finds, especially if they’re just not going to sell. For example, by April we usually start to see Aldi camping equipment, but this year equipment was delayed by over a month, to the end of May, since many campgrounds were or are either closed or operating with restrictions. On the other hand, gardening products continued to show up in the ads around their normal time, although we saw changes even in that department, with Aldi opting not to sell its annual raised garden bed this year.
One more thing: don’t be surprised to see themes play out over multiple weeks. Aldi does this anyway, but if it’s already cutting back on its Finds, a theme such as a holiday might run two weeks instead of one, or three to four weeks instead of the usual two.
4. Aldi Finds are Not Going Away
Some people may worry that Aldi could discontinue Aldi Finds right away. I don’t see that happening. Those products are a core part of Aldi’s identity, and removing them would be like taking the red out of Target.
But there’s another, more economic reason why Aldi probably won’t: Aldi Finds do a terrific job of getting shoppers to shop. Keep in mind that, during the pandemic, people have sometimes gone weeks without shopping and may even look at other stores with curbside pickup. Seeing something appealing in the Aldi Finds ad may bring them in. I was reminded of this as I was writing this post when my wife looked at an upcoming ad and said, “wow, I may need to go looking for those.” That’s what Aldi Finds are designed to do.
5. We May See More Changes
Back in February, I wrote my first piece on how Aldi and Trader Joe’s might be affected by the coronavirus outbreak. When I wrote that, schools were open, no one was talking about social distancing, and most of the talk was about China.
How much things have changed.
As I said at the outset, the Aldi Find ad has fluctuated over the weeks, and I would expect that to be one of the uncertainties, especially if conditions change. If things improve, for example, we might see more Aldi Finds, while if things get worse, we might see fewer. Global supply issues might also impact certain Aldi Finds: if Aldi can’t get it, we won’t see it.
Who knows where we’ll be six months from now? We’ll see.