This is our truth, tell us yours
Have you taken the Aldi challenge this January?
It’s easy to get fixated on the prices, but it’s worth shopping in Aldi, then Asda, and comparing the experience as well as the bill.
I find Asda, when busy, stressful. Watch how people have to change direction or course.Watch how you have to pause as someone rushes past you, or across your path as they try to work out which of the tens of thousands of products they want. Listen to the noise of children pleading for this and that, while parents try to manage the family, the trolley, the shopping list and the constant intrusions from store radio, product testers and the chaotic layout of a shop where you have to remember which products were on the hotspot at the end of the aisle, and what price they were. Everything is geared up to the convenience of the business and the profit motive.
Aldi feels different. The aisles are narrower, and it’s one paced – there isn’t the room to cut across other people or to overtake – a U turn in Aldi will require the co-operation of everyone else within ten feet. And there are less reasons to make a U turn. Less product lines, but also less hot spots; if Aldi have a product, it will be in one place, not several. If I want to decide between venison burgers and beef burgers for my tea, they’re next to each other. All the salad is in one place, and, tellingly, my local Aldi doesn’t have a gone to die corner where salad that’s close to it’s sell by date waits to be discovered, far from the full price alternative which has another day to go.
Actually, that’s another factor about Asda that annoys me. To get the best from Asda, I have to go in, head down to the gone to die meat, then to the special offer meat, then to the gone to die fruit and veg, before starting the rest of my shopping.Instead of the shop flowing, it’s chaos, as everyone else does their own variation on the same thing.
That’s not to say ALdi can’t be unpredictable, just that they have it under control in a very Aldi-ish kind of way. I’m talking about the joy that is Aldi’s special buys, bargain goods of average quality sold in a jumble sale kind of way from bins ranged down the centre aisle of the store. Anything from cycling gear to top end building tools can be bought in a gleefully passive way – they dump it in a bin, you buy it,and that’s it. No extended warranty, no hard sell, it’s just there.
I mentioned Ed Miliband a while back. What’s all this got to do with him? Two things. The first is that the success of Aldi versus Asda is a direct challenge to the Blairite mantra that choice is everything. Right across the retail spectrum the supersheds with almost limitless choice are being tackled head on by the nimbler, less wide ranging but more tightly focussed discounters. Is there a political lesson in this? The debate around the paradox of choice is hardly new, but in the political arena no-one appears to be engaging with that debate, both in the context of decision making and public services and in the context of electoral decision making.
Ed Miliband has to help voters simplify the political choices, from five or six per constituency, to 2 or three. He also has to understand that, as much as marketing and focus group work can help inform him, the closer he moves to the centre ground, the harder he makes it for voters who may choose to abstain. The tale of New Coke, and the over-reliance on sip tests, is all too well known. The risk for Miliband is that he might over-rely on focus groups and short opinion polls, and miss the greater trends and realities. He has to position himself somewhere between Aldi and the Co-op, putting UKIP into the slot occupied by Poundland, and the Tories into Tesco’s. The Waitrose socialism of Blairism is dead, and now needs to be buried under the realities of austerity Britain.