That’s how long it took our local Aldi store to sell out of wine Advent calendars back in November of 2018. One of our writers had arrived just a couple of minutes after opening, only to find no trace of the calendars. Nor were we alone: across the country, the wine calendars instantly disappeared off shelves, only to reappear on eBay and elsewhere for several times the price.
It was not Aldi’s finest hour, and it’s something Aldi should have seen coming. The wine Advent calendars had been a sensation the previous year over in the United Kingdom, and Aldi brought them to America in 2018 knowing full well that customers here would snatch them up just as quickly. Yet Aldi at the time seemed caught off guard by the intensity of the interest, delivering inadequate numbers of calendars to stores. Worse still, while there was technically a limit of one per customer, it wasn’t necessarily enforced.
At the time, it reminded me of one of those Black Friday fails, where a company advertised a doorbuster only for most customers to miss out because of the initial hordes. It also raised a crucial question: what would Aldi do about it?
Retooling the Rollout
Aldi, to its credit, is a smart company with smart people. In November 2019, the supermarket brought back the wine Advent calendar alongside a ticket system that smoothed the process considerably and better ensured that most people who wanted a calendar weren’t getting squeezed out by mass buyers. Aldi also beefed up its supply, bringing large pallets of the calendars to its stores.
Aldi also understood that there was something to this Advent calendar business. While in 2018 the store carried only a few types of Advent calendars, Aldi steadily added more Advent calendars to its lineup. In 2019, Aldi added beer, more toys, more chocolates, dog treats, and even a New Year wine collection. In 2020, Aldi expanded with the likes of hard seltzer, coffee, a craft calendar, cat treats, and an Advent calendar candle. In 2021, the collection has only grown, with more toys, more chocolate, gnomes, and more than enough wine and beer calendars.
In short, Advent calendar launch day has become a high-profile day for Aldi. It’s become so high-profile, in fact, that Aldi declare the first Wednesday in November National Advent Calendar Day, signaling that the German supermarket intends this to be an annual tradition for a long time to come.
Busy Times at Aldi
To date, Aldi doesn’t celebrate Black Friday. The grocer doesn’t do any Black Friday sales, instead keeping to its normal Sunday / Wednesday routine. The ads that week aren’t anything out of the ordinary, either — there are no crazy sales or other gimmicks. It’s just anther day, albeit one on the day after Aldi is closed. Aldi is pretty quiet on Black Friday.
Instead, the busiest days in Aldi are during the days leading up to holidays. Just like at many other grocery stores, the days before Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s, for example, are crowded. (Trust me.) If you go into Aldi on the likes of December 24th or December 31st, you can be sure you won’t be alone.
Truth be told, National Advent Calendar Day isn’t the busiest day at Aldi. Other than the initial line of people waiting for the Advent goods when the store first opens for the day, the first Wednesday in November isn’t particularly packed with customers. So it might not be quite fair to equate it to Black Friday in terms of crowd rush.
But in another sense it is like Black Friday for Aldi in that it heralds the start of the store’s holiday season. For many stores, Black Friday is the launch of the December holiday gift rush, but not for Aldi, because Aldi has been in that rush for weeks. Think about it: Aldi releases calendars meant to commemorate the time before Christmas … but it does so in the weeks before Thanksgiving. If you’re one of those people who doesn’t start thinking about Christmas before Thanksgiving is over, you’re obviously not Aldi.
Because Aldi is all about doing both in November.
Case in point? In 2021, Aldi put out a new supply of discounted Thanksgiving turkeys on the same day as the Advent calendars. These two months — November and December — are part of the larger Aldi game plan of getting shoppers in the “Thankschristmas” buying spirit. You’ll see many of the same big meats and sides throughout both holidays, for example, and of course Aldi will be slowly but surely ramping up Christmas presents even before you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinner.
National Advent Calendar Day marks a shift in strategy for the small-inventory grocer. The first Wednesday in November is the launch pad for the rest of the year, with Christmas wines and Thanksgiving turkeys hitting stores. And while it might not the the busiest shopping day for Aldi, it’s a landmark day … especially for the faithful shoppers who were ready to get their Advent fix.