Aldi Shanghai Pilot Store is Open
I visited one of the two Aldi pilot stores in Shanghai. Here’s what I thought
Ever since I heard about Aldi having a headquarter office in Shanghai, I’ve been looking for a physical store.
Back in Australia I had come accustomed to Aldi’s unique brands, no frills displays, and rock bottom prices. Customer devotion to Aldi in Australia seemed near cultish, they sneer at the mere sight of a Woolworths.
“Woolworths —*snort* — fools and their money are soon parted”
I’m always on the lookout for familiar sights and tastes, so I put on my best sleuthing hat and sleuthed for a store near me.
Alas there wasn’t one — anywhere.
Instead Aldi just offered their products on TMall, the very popular Chinese home delivery app. They were one of literally thousands of vendors selling me home delivered discount noodles.
I moved on with my life and became accustomed to the many Chinese options available around me.
Time passed and Aldi passed from all knowledge.
Then, a week ago, it happened.
Imagine my complete surprise when out of the blue an Aldi pilot store is announced to have opened in downtown Shanghai (to great fanfare) along with a second store somewhere out in the sticks.
Aldi has proclaimed its intention to open up to 100 stores in the near future, a proclamation that depends on the success of these two pilot stores.
I noticed other articles appearing online right away, making big judgements mere seconds after the announcement. But all of them are using photos from other Aldi stores elsewhere in the world.
How can I tell? These pilot stores have a far fresher and newer design.
So how could I resist?
I went and saw the wonder for myself, armed with an iPhone and a dream of cheap groceries.
Not so Cheap
Unsurprisingly the items that I most wanted, (milk, cheese, butter, cream) were not any cheaper at Aldi.
The big reason has got to be that other retailers are also pricing these goods as inexpensively as they can, but can’t make them inexpensive. This is of course because these goods are imported inside cold storage containers. Big bucks.
I saw that some butter options were a couple dollars cheaper at Aldi, but not enough to warrant choosing Aldi over the competition. Especially since Aldi doesn’t have anywhere near enough of the grocery items I need.
The store is tiny.
It’s well designed, well lit and everything is easy to find. The vast majority of Chinese supermarkets cannot make all three of those claims.
The problem with the size becomes obvious however when you see how it has negatively affected the variety of options in stock.
I went shopping today to find enough ingredients to make my incredible creamy chicken soup. (The recipe will appear on my profile in the near future). However to my dismay, this is what I discovered -
They don’t sell whole chickens.
They don’t sell cream in a reasonably sized container. (I don’t need an entire jug, I use it once and the rest goes bad).
They don’t sell minced beef. This is not for the soup, I just always use the ‘minced beef test’ to decide if I’ll go back to a western supermarket again.
Chinese supermarkets don’t sell minced beef — period. They just don’t.
Like cheese, Chinese consumers seem to have no need for it.
This lack of minced beef puts enormous pressure on western supermarkets to pick up the slack. Aldi didn’t do that, so it failed the beef test.
I’m sorry Aldi, but I never want to have to ask,
“Where’s the beef?”
Many shops in China today allow customers to pay for their items via WeChat, (a Chinese social media app that’s used nationwide for mobile payment).
This integration was a really smart move, and a move that’s not common enough among western businesses in Shanghai.
While all western businesses will let you scan and pay with WeChat at the checkout, they’re not using the app to its full potential.
As you shop you’re able to scan your products on the go. Once you’re done you simply click ‘done’ on the app and WeChat will confirm and pay for the items. You’re then free to walk out of the store.
Alternatively you can use the self-checkout machines that many competing supermarkets offer.
Fresh food options
Going in a somewhat Ikea direction, the Aldi pilot store also offers several grab and go hot food options. A smart move that matches similiar competing stores.
This selection includes pizza, hotdogs and a few other options. Just like with Ikea, they were really delicious. No meatballs though.
(grumble grumble no bloody beef grumble).
So will I be a customer?
The store is beautifully designed and the prices seem to be slightly cheaper in some areas.
Some items, especially home goods are far cheaper at Aldi than they are at other western supermarkets.
But at the end of the day, I shop at western markets so that I’m able to buy a large variety of home-comfort food that I crave.
Price isn’t an issue for me, it’s access. I need to be able to make a perfect lasagne without running around the entire city for ingredients.
So for now I won’t be going back. But if they do roll out their 100 new stores and one of them is a super-store; I’ll give them another chance.
This BTS branded coke is not at Aldi, it’s being sold at the competitor I went to when Aldi didn’t have everything I needed.
It’s far too extra, but I’m going to need one of every member.
My name is Jordan and I’m a traveler living in Shanghai, China.
If you enjoyed this look into Aldi China, please enjoy another of my articles below. Thanks for reading!