Aldi goes online in the Middle Kingdom
The privately-run company is using Australian subsidiary, Aldi Stores, as a springboard for entry. A number of Australian suppliers have apparently already been briefed on the packaging and labelling requirements for www.aldi.cn.
The domain name was secured by the Mülheim-based retail giant a number of years ago and now bears the strapline "Handpicked for you".
So when can more than 415 million Chinese online customers ignite their firecrackers and perform the dragon dance?
Usually it doesn't take much longer than a year for Aldi to begin operations once this stage has been reached. We are therefore looking for a start date somewhere in autumn 2017. Our newspaper understands that the e-commerce stall will put up for business in a free trade zone.
Experts close to the company are convinced that the discounter plans to offer more than just a few interesting specialities from Europe, which more prosperous Chinese consumers will be familiar with from their travels. They believe that Aldi intends to create a truly local assortment with products "made in Germany" as a topping.
Meanwhile, Goldman Sachs estimates that the average annual income of China's aspirational millennials is set to double by 2024. Research group China Internet Watch therefore computes that total retail e-commerce sales will grow from $911bn this year to a whopping $1.6tn in 2018.
Aldi's no-frills proposition in online form is likely to go down very well with local consumers because the Chinese love to save as passionately as they love to gamble and have an almost elective affinity with online.
Crossing the great cyber wall
China will be the first international market Aldi Süd (Aldi South) has ever entered via cyberspace without having first established a physical store base. Currently the iconic retailer only runs an online shop in the UK after having pulled the plugs recently on a test project in Australia.
Surprisingly, given its legendary caution, Aldi's decision to use Australia as a launchpad for the the world's second-largest economy is said not to have been primarily motivated by legal qualms or fears as to security of tenure. Apparently, the company blanched at the tour de force required to recruit enough local personnel. "Australia is an ideal place to train staff for China," says one retail manager, and therefore a real alternative.
Watch out, there's a Lidl about
Meanwhile, all those who love the fine music of words can only regret that Aldi doesn't seem inclined to team up with Alibaba, for then we could have had a joint-venture with the name of Aldibaba.
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