Aldi eyes start in Italy
In the 1990's, "sources close to Aldi" revealed that Austrian subsidiary Hofer had indeed taken a long hard look at bella Italia. At the time, however, group head office in Mülheim was said to have been deterred by the complex building regulations governing the numerous centri storici (historical town centres) which delight the world's tourists.
Nonetheless, the secretive retail giant confirmed exclusively to Lebensmittel Zeitung this week that it is reviewing the dossier. Local bureaucracy has hardly simplified in the interim. So what has made Aldi change its mind about the Italian job?
Of course Aldi would not be Aldi, if it did not immediately add that "no final decision has yet been taken". But the entry scenario is clearly propitious. According to PlanetRetail, the country's 60m consumers make for estimated annual retail sales of around €180bn.
The Top 5 retailers (Coop Italia, Conad, Auchan, Esselunga, Carrefour) account for just under 20 per cent of the national food market. This compares with a far higher level of concentration in Germany (83 per cent). Small neighbourhood stores still dominate the Italian retail scene, providing an excellent hunting ground for efficient discount systems.
Aldi Süd's international logo: Soon to be found south of the Alps?
Aldi Süd (Aldi South), which has been on a roll in Australia, the US and the UK, is also said to be highly confident about its internationalisation potential. A new generation of managers has modified the traditionally ultra-cautious approach of Germany's most profitable discounter. Even expansion in China is no longer a taboo.
Logically, Aldi is said to be looking to enter Northern Italy first. Unusually in terms of its corporate culture, the privately-owned group, with estimated annual earnings well in excess of €1bn, might also consider a takeover. This would obviously kick-start entry in the game of catch-up with Lidl Italia (570 stores) and Penny Market (310). It would also reduce the rigmarole of labyrinthine planning authorisations for individual sites.
Benvenuto in Italia, Aldi?!
Related article in German: By Hans-Jürgen Schulz & Heike Balzer, Lebensmittel Zeitung, no. 10, 06.03.2015
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