Fridley Grocers Discuss Discount Shopping Model
Aldi's new store spurs talk of how discount retailing affects business.
At Aldi, the discount grocery store that just opened a new location on 50th and Central avenues NE in Columbia Heights, customers buy their bags, check out carts on loan, and pay for their groceries without the convenience of credit cards or checks.
Aldi’s business model keeps prices low, and it's catching the attention of local grocery stores.
Mike Schroer, an owner of Bob’s Produce Ranch, said he does not see Aldi as a direct competitor.
“We’re not a low-cost store,” he said. “We go to their store quite frequently, and we’re astonished that they can sell that product. ‘You sell that? It doesn’t look very good.’ We’re at the opposite end of the spectrum--premium quality, good service.”
He said that the new Aldi store, three miles from Bob’s, will not have as large an impact as the existing store on County Road 10, though he acknowledged that “certainly any competition will affect us.”
Schroer said that Aldi is “causing a rift in the industry,” and that it aims to serve as a supplemental shopping option, opening locations near existing grocery stores
“We employ about 80 employees," Schroer said. “They have three. You walk into that store and look around--they have maybe a few people as cashiers and someone stocking in the back.”
Nick Abernathy, an owner of Mike's Discount Foods, said the Fridley branch of Mike’s would be unaffected by the new Aldi’s but that there could be a “slight affect” on the Mike’s Columbia Heights location at 45th and Central avenues NE.
But Abernathy said he hopes the grouping of discount groceries in Columbia Heights will function similarly to the retail philosophy that spurs outlet malls.
“I’m hoping if anything it will just bring more like-minded shoppers to the area,” he said.
Abernathy said he thought his customers would be likely to shop at Aldi, but that that didn’t mean they will stop shopping at Mike’s.
“The funny thing I’ve figured out with the bargain shopper is they go and get five things at one store that they can’t get anywhere else for as cheap,” he said. “They’ll hit five different stores in the same afternoon and get the best bargain at each store, and that doesn’t bother me.”
Bob’s Produce Ranch and Mike’s Discount Foods are family-owned and non-unionized. Larger grocery stores in the area, such as the Fridley Supertarget and the 57th Avenue Cub Foods, will also be affected by the new Aldi location.
Public relations officials at Cub Foods and Target said their stores had a policy of not commenting on competitors.
“We stay focused on what we have to do, which is help our customers find what they need,” said Lilia Rodriguez, the external communications manager for Cub Foods.
"Target remains committed to providing our guests with an exceptional shopping experience and a wide assortment of products to meet their needs," Kristin Jahnke of Target's communications department wrote in an email.