ALDI, the German discount grocer, is taking another big step into the world of eCommerce as the coronavirus pandemic reshuffles the retail landscape around the world.
After a pilot program at a single store in the U.K., ALDI said it plans to expand its “click-and-collect” online grocery pickup service to 15 stores across the country, the Financial Times reports.
Still, the rollout comes with a caveat, as ALDI previously resisted a shift to online sales over concerns about whether it would be profitable enough given the chain’s reliance on lower prices to draw customers.
“We have to make sure that whatever we do fits with our low-cost model,” Giles Hurley, head of ALDI’s operations in the U.K. and Ireland, told the FT. “That is absolutely critical.”
In the interview, Hurley characterized the expanded rollout as a step or two away from full commitment to online ordering and picking, calling it a “really rigorous trial.”
Even so, ALDI appears to have crossed a key threshold. Despite some lingering reservations, Giles told FT that the firm’s “unique business model and enhanced efficiency can be applied to eCommerce.”
ALDI has also experimented with offering online ordering and pickup during the pandemic for a limited range of items through Deliveroo at some of its London stores.
The retailer’s traditional resistance to online sales has meant the company has not seen the same big jump in online ordering as other chains, including Walmart and Target.
But even as it moves toward offering online ordering and pickup, ALDI is doubling down on its investment in its brick-and-mortar store network. The retailer is beefing up plans to add hundreds of new stores over the next few years. While the grocery company had originally laid out plans to spend $1.28 billion over two years on this expansion, it has since boosted its commitment to the store network expansion to more than $1.6 billion, according to the FT.