The ladies conquer Aldi – at last
Using the motto "Gutes Design muss nicht teuer sein" (Good design doesn't have to be expensive), the range was celebrated with great razzamatazz this week at Aldi's flagship store on Königsallee, a chichi shopping street in Düsseldorf.
What a change to the usual no-frills presentation of clothing in wire bargain bins! In a further break with tradition, customers were turned away after midday in order to transform the store into a catwalk. This will have the old guard at Aldi rolling in their graves. But could it be that Aldi Süd is starting to get sexy in its mid-50s?
Even the way Germany's most profitable discounter marketed the show broke new ground. One hundred entry tickets were drawn in a raffle on Facebook, and Aldi created its own microsite to promote the event. Clearly, the old advertising days, characterised by the sober slogan "Aldi informiert" (Aldi informs), are on the way out.
This approach has earned the daughter of famous designer Wolfgang Joop considerable scorn in the bitchy world of high fashion. Sceptics also claimed that any listing at Aldi could harm the image of her own "Jette Joop" label. But the clever business lady, who has won a listing at Germany's greatest retail brand, will be laughing all the way to the bank. As Ms Joop, who has also designed staff uniforms for Rewe, rightly puts it: "Aldi is a cult in Germany."
The 27-piece Blue Motion range includes light blouses and shirts, lounge pants and light cardigans with eight scarves, four shoes and three handbags. The black, white, grey and pastel tones make for a natural, sporty and casual look. "It was also important for us to show how easily each individual fashion item can be combined to make a really cool outfit," says Kim Aline Suckow, deputy head buyer at Aldi Süd. Items range from €7.99 to €19.99 and from size XS (34) to L (44/46).
This time, however, the discounter has clearly landed another PR coup. Its first fashion show is now the talk of the town and, as in the UK this summer, news of the collection has enjoyed extensive coverage on TV, radio and the internet.
As from April 11, we shall see if the expense also leads to commercial success in Germany, Switzerland and Austria. But, in one sense at least, Aldi has already won because it is has put the ladies first at last.
Normally, women in retailing are mere stooges and drudges in a macho world with plenty of glass ceilings for female talent. Wherever, however, women are allowed to become the spotlight, sales and image improve exponentially because they invariably bring not just flair and charm but also lots of business talent.
Department store operators such as La Rinascente in Milan realised this instinctively long ago. Ground floor entrance areas are full of female brands where happy ladies with gleaming eyes swirl around and male customers are not displeased to stroll past them.
69-year-old German drugstore baron Dirk Roßmann announced only this week at his annual conference that he wants to make his stores "more feminine". Let's watch sales rise when he does so.
Aldi, a word to the wise, if you please: The more attractive you can make your world for women customers and employees, the more successful you will be – full stop.
Apparently, German CEO Roman Heini attended the event, which can be viewed on Aldi's microsite, incognito. Bet he got an eyeful! One can only imagine the conversation with Mrs Heini later the same evening: "Please believe me, Dearest, I was only there to see the merchandise..."
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