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The summer of 2021 was, in many ways, a sort of big reopening. With COVID case rates down and vaccines available to adults and some kids, Americans were ready to get out after a year of being isolated at home. Tourism looked primed to explode, and the world seemed on the cusp of returning to normal.
A lot of that did happen. Tourism, for example, rocketed back to pre-pandemic levels. (I know: our family navigated massive crowds in the summer of 2021 in and around Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.) And life seemed to move much more quickly back to normal.
But with that big reopening came a big surge in demand. People were spending money again, and in all areas. Anything that involved getting out of the house was especially in demand, such as cars and vacations.
The problem? The supply wasn’t there. In the auto industry, for example, chip shortages and other parts problems led to bottlenecks in production. (It wasn’t just new cars, either: one of my friends waited months for a replacement part after his car was in a fender-bender.) In retail, meanwhile, supply chains that had slowed down during the pandemic were now taxed as manufacturers and shippers tried to restart production.
For the average Aldi shopper, by June of 2021 there was a good chance you realized something was up. Products scheduled to release in the weekly ad didn’t show up. Aldi started slapping product delay warnings on specific products, both Regular Buys and Aldi Finds. More ominously, the Sneak Peek Ad began to shrink, and it has stayed that way for several months now.
The problems continued well into the fall and winter of 2021 and into early 2022. Not only was the middle aisle noticeably less crowded than normal, but random things would show up late. I saw swimming accessories show up in the fall, and obvious holiday fare appear in the spring. In the Regular Buy aisle, random products would disappear for weeks at a time.
Aldi has asked customers for patience amidst the shipping delays, but after a year of supply chain snarls, shoppers no doubt are wondering where the light is at the end of the tunnel. It’s impossible to say for certain, but here are some of the signs we’re seeing.
The Sneak Peek Ad Remains Small, But the Full Ad Is Close to Its Old Self
For a long time, the Aldi Sneak Peek ad, which runs 1 to 1 1/2 weeks before Aldi Finds hit shelves, was a pretty reliable listing of the Aldi Find lineup for that week. Back in the summer of 2020, Aldi shrank the Sneak Peek ad from 3-4 pages down to 2, and when the full ad came out it wasn’t much larger.
The Sneak Peek ad is still 2 pages. But the full ad has steadily grown back to normal size. Both the digital ad and the full print ad are full of Aldi Finds, and they seem closer to being on-season than months ago. Our This Week at Aldi posts reflect that, with recent ones showcasing a lot more in the Aldi Find department than they did a few months earlier.
The Middle Aisle — and the Rest of the Store — is Noticeably More Packed
We’ve seen it anecdotally, and people we’ve interacted with online have said the same thing: Aldi is packed, especially with limited buys. The company’s products are showing up just in time for the summer. It’s actually creating enough of a headache that the grocer has been advertising price cuts on Aldi Finds just to move out all the inventory.
We wouldn’t have seen that back in the winter of 2021.
Some Delays Are Still Happening
If you navigate to the Aldi product delays page, you’ll still see some items that aren’t making it to all stores on time. It’s hard to say how many stores are impacted — is it less than before, or the same? — but Aldi continues to wrestle with supply chain headaches. This is true of both Aldi Finds and everyday Regular Buys.
Stealth Releases Are Still Happening
Among the big developments from the fall of 2021 were stealth Aldi Find releases. These were products that would show up unannounced in stores, with no ad presence. Those kinds of releases seem to be less common in the spring of 2022, but they still happen: the Belavi Gazebo With Netting seemingly dropped out of the sky in May, and there are others that also show up without any warning.
Problems May Resolve in Some Areas, But May Not Fully Recover in 2022
Things are starting to get better in some places. Unfortunately, between the existing problems from last year combined with problems overseas — continuing lockdowns in China, conflicts sparked by Russia — supply chain issues may continue to create headaches through the end of the year.
That’s not all bad news, though. Chains may not recover, but they should gradually improve. We’re seeing evidence of that on Aldi shelves.
With any luck, the summer of 2022 at Aldi may not be full-on normal, but it looks like it may be better than what we witnessed in stores in the summer of 2021.