U.S. retailers better prepared for Aldi, Lidl threat: Report.


Aldi’s rapid expansion and Lidl’s pending U.S. arrival aren’t likely to have as devastating an effect on top U.S. grocers as they had for counterparts in Europe, but their invasion will likely prove especially problematic for smaller operators and those focused on lower-income shoppers, an analyst said in a report Thursday.

And though their overall share of the U.S. market is not especially significant today, both Aldi and Lidl have demonstrated the ability to improve their offering as they grow, representing a threat over the longer term to a wide range of retailers.

“All retailers need to treat Aldi (and at a later date Lidl) as a meaningful threat — and to be dismissive will likely prove to be a tactical/strategic error,” the report, authored by Deutsche Bank retailing analyst Karen Short and colleagues, said. “All retailers — irrespective of income demographics — need to keep an eye on Aldi’s evolution, particularly given the success they have had in the U.K.”

The report argues that top U.S. grocers like Kroger and H-E-B are better prepared than European conventional supermarkets to withstand price-focused competition, having already adjusted to a significant threat from Wal-Mart Stores in part by becoming more competitive on price themselves and adjusting to operating under narrower margins.

Photos by Getty Images

The “Big 4” grocers in the United Kingdom, by contrast, were caught raising prices when Aldi and Lidl attacked, and the market’s relative dearth of smaller competitors left them more vulnerable than a fragmented U.S. market would, the report noted.

Those players — Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s and Asda — have all seen their market share and margins drop significantly, while Aldi and Lidl have grown store counts by around 7% annually since 2004, and today control around 8.3% of the U.K. between them. That share has come almost entirely from the “Big 4,” which have seen combined market share decline from nearly 70% in 2011 to 64.2% today, the report said, citing internal research and Kantar Retail figures.

Both Aldi and Lidl are German-owned, limited assortment discounters with similarly efficient structures enabling them to offer significant price advantages, primarily on private brands. Aldi has operated in the U.S. since 1976 but is in the midst of a plan to build 500 new stores before 2019. Lidl has said it would enter the U.S. no later than 2018 with sources expecting as many as 100 stores in the Mid-Atlantic states.

According to the report, smaller food retailers with low market shares are likely to be most vulnerable to the discount competition — a threat that could trigger additional consolidation among food retailers seeking to boost share.

“We think smaller, weaker conventional grocery chains are very vulnerable to Aldi’s and Lidl’s expansion,” Short wrote. “The most at-risk would be the grocers that lack scale and do not have leading local market shares (i.e., outside the top 4 in any market). So at the end of the day, the rise of the hard discounter will ultimately accelerate consolidation in the U.S. in our view.”

In the near term, stores servicing the most price-sensitive customers are most at risk, Short added, citing Aldi’s leading pricing in proprietary market studies in New Jersey and Nashville. In Nashville, Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot chain was closest on price to Aldi — and scored better in meat, a key traffic driver — but “we believe that [Save-A-Lot] may also be the most exposed to Aldi’s expansion given the demographic overlap – both grocers target value-focused consumers who shop for low-priced private label products in a smaller box format.”

A 2015 study of 12 U.S. markets where Aldi operates stores by consultant Oliver Wyman cited in the report, noted that more than half of Walmart Neighborhood Market shoppers also shopped occasionally at Aldi. Hy-Vee and Save-A-Lot shoppers were in the mid-40% range. Stores with more appeal to higher-income shoppers including Whole Foods (15% of primary shoppers also Aldi shoppers) Wegmans (12%) and BJ’s Wholesale Club (10%) were least likely to have primary shoppers who also shopped at Aldi, the report added.

However, a track record of improving its offer as it grows could signal longer-term threats to a greater field of competitors, Short noted, citing Aldi’s expansion of natural and organic goods and expanded fresh offering.

MERCADONA consolida su liderazgo en España frente a DIA y CARREFOUR.


El gigante valenciano de distribución eleva su cuota más de un 50%desde el inicio de la crisis, hasta conquistar casi el 23% del mercado.

El gigante de la distribución Mercadona reafirma su liderazgo con una cuota de mercado que ya representa, prácticamente, la cuarta parte del sector de la distribución.

Según los últimos datos publicados por la consultora especializada en consumo Kantar Worldpanel, el grupo valenciano cuenta con una cuota de mercado del 22,7%, superando las ventas conjuntas de tres de sus grandes competidores:Dia, Carrefour y Auchan.

La cadena de supermercados que preside Juan Roig ha aumentado su volumen de ventas sobre el total del mercado en un 50% desde el inicio de la crisis. En 2008 contaba con una cuota del 15%, según cifras de la citada consultora.

Mercadona es, por tanto, líder de un sector que se caracteriza por un elevado grado de concentración, dado que los seis principales grupos de distribución del país aglutinan un 53,2% del mercado de alimentación, droguería y perfumería (ver gráfico).

Ritmo de crecimiento

Aunque la posición de liderazgo en el mercado de Mercadona es incuestionable, su ritmo de crecimiento ha perdido fuelle en el último año. De hecho, entre noviembre de 2014 y el mismo mes de 2015, su cuota cede ligeramente, hasta perder una décima.

Por contra, Dia y Carrefour han ganado posiciones. Grupo Dia -que concentra las enseñas Dia, El Árbol, La Plaza y Clarel- es el segundo grupo en España con una cuota de mercado del 8,7%, siete décimas que en noviembre del año pasado. Le sigue de cerca el francés Carrefour que, con un volumen de ventas equivalente al 8,4%del total del sector, ha ganado dos décimas de cuota en 12 meses.

Entre los grupos que han perdido terreno en el último ejercicio figura Eroski, con una cuota actual del 5,9% (en 2014 contaba con un 6,4%), tras haber vendido en abril de este año 144 supermercados a Dia en la Comunidad de Madrid, Andalucía, Extremadura, Castilla y León y Castilla-La Mancha.

Por su parte, Lidl destaca al registrar un crecimiento de cinco décimas, pese a contar con una cuota más moderada en España del 3,7%.


Florencio García, Retail&Petrol Sector Director de Kantar Worldpanel, señaló en un reciente informe que “la concentración de la distribución en España es cada vez más evidente, y no solo los grandes grupos, sino todo el sector sigue creciendo a costa del canal especialista”.

El experto considera que “la batalla por los frescos es cada vez más intensa entre los principales distribuidores, por lo que ganar cuota en esta sección es cada vez más difícil. Así que, aunque la gestión de estos productos sigue estando en el centro de sus decisiones, cada operador está encontrando su propia fórmula para atraer a un consumidor cada vez más preocupado por la calidad y la comodidad, y menos por el precio”.

Un gigante con ingresos de 20.000 millones

El líder de la distribucón Mercadona facturó en 2014 20.161 millones de euros, situando su beneficio neto en 543 millones de euros, un 5% más que en el ejercicio anterior.

Las ventas por volumen del grupo que preside Juan Roig ascendieron hasta los 10.103 millones de kilos y litros (kilitros), en un año en el que 4,9 millones de hogares realizaron compra en los supermercados del grupo valenciano.

Mercadona alcanzó en este periodo una cifra de inversión récord de 1.155 millones de euros, de los que 655 millones fueron destinados a la apertura de 60 centros, y otros 500 millones corresponden a inversiones realizadas por los fabricantes interproveedores.

El grupo pone el foco en la transformación digital, materializada en un Centro de Proceso de Datos, al que ha destinado un presupuesto de más de 120 millones.

Cuenta con 74.000 trabajadores en plantilla.

Discount Redefined: Aldi in the USA.

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Aldi will never be everything to everyone, but more things for more people is certainly within its sites.

The limited assortment discounter, which at one time provided only a bare-bones shopping experience for the neediest shoppers, has today evolved its concept so as to provide a contemporary look and on-trend assortment with appeal to what Aldi calls “smart shoppers” — increasingly, mainstream grocery shoppers who will buy all they can at Aldi before filling out the rest of their needs elsewhere.

This reinvention of the discount model has made Aldi — even with the relatively low volumes that come with its limited assortment — a considerable threat to larger players who trade on price, like Wal-Mart Stores, and to mainstream grocers whose selections have been skillfully targeted, observers say.

“Over the last 15 years Aldi has gone from attracting that income-constrained customer who needed to shop for the lowest-priced groceries, and evolved so that stores are more pleasant, more open and brighter. They’ve evolved merchandise assortments to be more trend-right. And that’s widened the customer base from people who need to save money, to more of a smart shopper who wants to save money,” Neil Stern, managing partner at McMillanDoolittle, told SN in an interview. “That’s broadened Aldi’s customer base and been a very good thing for them.”

At the same time, Aldi is taking this more appealing offering to more places than ever before. It’s about a year-and-a-half into a $3 billion, five-year expansion spree that will add more than 650 new stores by 2018, taking the Batavia, Ill.-based retailer to around 2,000 locations, including its first foray to the West Coast with the anticipated opening of 45 stores in Southern California next year.

For its ambition to change with its consumers while finding more of them, Aldi is the recipient of SN’s 2015 Retail Achievement Award, sponsored by Hussmann.

In an exclusive interview with SN, Jason Hart, Aldi’s youthful CEO, said the increase in store traffic that came to Aldi with the onset of the recession in 2008 has proven resilient, even as economic clouds lifted. Aldi in the meantime has continued to pivot its assortment to appeal to that shopper, crafting private brand selections around gluten-free (Live g-Free); “free-from” pure foods (Simply Nature); premium specialty (Specially Selected); and better-for-you items (Fit & Active), along with increased selections of fresh foods including a rollout of organic produce in all stores last year.

“We’ve been quite happy with the stickiness of the traffic that’s been coming into the stores in the past few years,” Hart said. “When you think about it, that customer who came into our store to save a little money because her economic situation became more difficult, once their situation improved — let’s say she found a new a job — that person doesn’t say to themselves, ‘Great, now I can go back to a traditional supermarket and pay $2 more for the box of branded cereal that tastes the same as the Aldi cereal.’”

Aldi is reinventing the discount store behind a philosophy that saving money favors no one demographic.

Aldi is reinventing the discount store behind a philosophy that saving money favors no one demographic.

Appetite for expansion

Although Hart declined to cite specific financial results, he said the chain’s appetite for expansion is up because sales are up, and sales are up because more shoppers are doing more of their shopping at Aldi — around 30 million shoppers per month, Hart noted. According to SN’s Top 75 estimates, the chain wrung sales of $10.1 billion out of 1,215 stores in 2014. A rough estimate of those figures suggests the average Aldi store does sales of around $150,000 per week, with shoppers spending in excess of $53 per visit.

Aldi’s five-year expansion plan estimates it can increase customers served per month to 45 million — a 50% increase from the current 30-million level — on a store-count increase of around 43%, another indication of the chain’s ambition to grow sales volumes faster than it grows stores.

Aldi has beefed up the selection and size of its stores, with eyes on bigger baskets and more frequent shoppers.

Aldi has beefed up the selection and size of its stores, with eyes on bigger baskets and more frequent shoppers.
Aldi limits its selection to around 1,350 SKUs but has chosen them effectively so as to be the “first shop” for its customers.

Aldi limits its selection to around 1,350 SKUs but has chosen them effectively so as to be the “first shop” for its customers.

Aldi is doing so on a small increase in both the number of SKUs — it carries around 1,350 currently — and also, a tick up in the size of the box. Hart said Aldi today is seeking stores of 11,000 square feet, up from a previous prototype of 10,000, acknowledging the company has at times wrestled with balancing the ideal assortment with the easy customer shopping experience and cost advantages a smaller box provides.“We try to stay disciplined to keeping a limited range, a focused range of products in the store but I will say that number’s been growing, and we believe that business model works for us, and the growth in shoppers is a testament to that,” Hart said. “Our shoppers tell us they appreciate how our product selection makes for a real quick and easy shopping experience and an environment without the dozens of aisles they have to go through in other stores and the dozens of selections for what would be just one SKU in our store.”

Aldi complements its grocery selection with a variety of “in-and-out” nonfood choices called Special Buys at sharp prices — often small kitchen appliances and lawn and garden care merchandise — which officials believe attracts return shoppers seeking a “treasure hunt” excitement to their weekly trip.

Sharp pricing on in-and-out items like bookbags marketed as “Aldi Finds” creates a treasure hunt atmosphere that encourages shoppers to come back, Aldi officials say.

Sharp pricing on in-and-out items like bookbags marketed as “Aldi Finds” creates a treasure hunt atmosphere that encourages shoppers to come back, Aldi officials say.

The tight selection, simple layout and cost discipline of Aldi stores fuel its price advantages and have proven a difficult model both to copy and to combat. To name one recent example, after Delhaize pulled the plug on its money-losing Bottom Dollar Food concept — selling the majority of its locations to Aldi — CEO Frans Muller told SN the larger company simply didn’t have discounting in its DNA, despite years of trying.“I can’t speak to why the strategies of other companies might not have worked. All I can say is what works for us,” Hart said. “You have to be disciplined to the concept. It’s a testament to how well the Aldi concept has worked because of how disciplined we’ve stayed to it. We can’t be all things to all people but our disciplined concept of retailing results in an unmatched formula of low prices, high quality, simplicity and product selection.

“When I say we’re disciplined to the concept it certainly doesn’t mean we’re a static business either,” he added. “We’ve always taken a simple, cost-effective approach to grocery shopping that fundamentally saves shoppers at the checkout. But we’ve also evolved in other ways during nearly 40 years in the U.S. We’ve developed new product lines, added more fresh options, and the store and the shopping experience have evolved over the years.”

Nibble away’ at sales

For competitors, a single Aldi opening is little more than a glancing blow, but one that’s difficult to defend against, sources say. In numbers, Aldi stores tend to “nibble away” at a sales base.

“It’s hard to mitigate the impact of Aldi because they’re so good at what they do,” Stern said. “There is only so much you can do as a traditional supermarket operator. They’re going to get their share. Inevitable is a strong word, but retailers need to be accepting that that’s going to happen.”

Aldi officials maintain quality is the differentiator between it and competitors in the discount space.

Aldi officials maintain quality is the differentiator between it and competitors in the discount space.

Stern said some stores have found success in promoting an opening price-point private label offering but lacking Aldi’s cost structure, its prices are difficult to reach.A retailer who asked not to be identified told SN traditional supermarkets are better off competing on their own terms and not Aldi’s.

“I don’t think they’ll take them on head-on,” the observer said. “Most supermarkets already have sharp pricing on things like milk, bread and eggs. The other thing they have to do is make sure they have a reasonable selection of other sizes that will allow them to get to the correct price points. Because let’s face it: If they’re buying from Kraft, they’re not going to out-mac-and-cheese Aldi. But if they offer bundles, or a deal like if you buy five you get $5 off, or if they bring in different sizes to get to the right price point by perception, that’s how they have to fight them.”

Meanwhile, the U.S. landscape is seeing the proliferation of additional value-based food retailers. Supervalu’s Save-A-Lot is riding strong sales momentum and eyeing a potential spinoff as a publicly traded company so as to fuel its own expansion. Companies like Grocery Outlet and WinCo are also expanding, as are dollar stores with a considerable food offering like Dollar General. On the horizon is Lidl, Aldi’s fellow German-based rival. Those two, which have battled for years in Europe — and between them have dealt a serious blow to conventional supermarket chains there — are expected to begin fighting on a new front shortly when Lidl opens the first of what’s expected to be at least 100 stores on the U.S. East Coast.

Will the proliferation of price-focused competitors wear away at Aldi’s uniqueness? Hart says no.

“Our dedication to the product quality will always be our main point of differentiation,” he maintained. “Anybody can offer a great price on a product. Whether that product is any good, or whether they can sustain that price, is the question. We offer a great price every day on every product in our store and we stand behind the quality, through in-house taste testing and sampling in our Aldi test kitchen. The quality is what differentiates us.”

Stepping up that quality offering through specialty private labels has accompanied a move toward the larger stores in more desirable locations, Hart noted. Aldi’s newest stores — including those headed to California — are rolling out a new décor package that Hart described as “modern, fresh, efficient, bright and welcoming.”

Aldi has skillfully sited stores in spaces accessible to higher-income consumers without necessarily hitting high-rent shopping centers, Stern said.

“Our last 500 stores have opened in middle- and upper-income areas and those are some of our highest-volume and fastest-growing stores,” Hart said.

“We’re tough negotiators, and we’re always looking for deals,” he added, “but we’re also not afraid to invest in the best site in town.”

Aldi named Retail Achievement Award winner by Supermarket News.


Aldi, the food retailer demonstrating new possibilities for the limited-assortment discount format, has been selected as this year’s winner of the Retail Achievement Award by SN.

The award, presented annually since 2003, recognizes an outstanding accomplishment by a retailer that boosts its business and serves as an example to the wider industry. Aldi is this year’s recipient, based on its success expanding its range and its reach.

Aldi has adapted its product mix to reflect consumer trends.

Aldi has adapted its product mix to reflect consumer trends.

Responding to changing consumer preferences, Aldi has reinvented its private label range behind on-trend offerings such as gluten-free, clean ingredients and “black label” specialty products, and has expanded fresh including organic produce at market-leading prices.

These new offerings have improved sales volumes, as well as Aldi’s appeal to a wider swath of the population.

The sales momentum is concurrently fueling a $3 billion expansion spree that will see the Batavia. Ill.-based retailer add more than 650 new stores by 2018, including its first stores in California, set to open early next year.

In an exclusive interview to be published online and in SN’s September issue, Jason Hart, Aldi’s U.S. CEO, discusses how keeping an eye on consumer tastes while maintaining its cost-effective approach allowed Aldi to respond.

“We’ve been very happy to the changes we’ve made in the business,” Hart said. “You can’t stand still. You have to continue to move, and you can’t say ‘no’ when changes come about. The consumer changes, trends change, products change, and we have to evolve as well.”

Walmart leads 2015 Top 25 Global Retailers.


A shifting focus toward smaller retail formats and the strong U.S. dollar influenced Planet Retail’s list of the Top 25 Global Retailers, on which Walmart, Costco and Carrefour took the top three spots, respectively.

The ranking is based on 2015 sales in U.S. dollars, which Planet Retail has forecast for the year while taking into account historic performance, store opening projections (which are reflected in store counts provided) and an estimated comparable store growth rate.

With a projected $527.8 billion in sales, Wal-Mart Stores bests all other international retailers by a wide margin, according to Planet Retail.

“Walmart remains by far the leading player but will not rest on its laurels,” noted Robert Gregory, head of advisory for London-based Planet Retail. “In fact, there are a number of key strategic initiatives it is pursuing at home and abroad.”

These include restoring performance in some faltering international markets and focusing on e-commerce around the world.

“Walmart was initially slow to embrace e-commerce, but is making up ground fast with global e-commerce sales growing at more than 20% per annum,” Gregory said.

While the Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer has online operations in most countries in which it operates, its key markets for digital sales are the U.S., U.K., Brazil and China, according to Gregory. Walmart considers Asda in the U.K. and Yihaodian in China to be best-in-class for e-commerce, he said.

No. 2 retailer, Issaquah, Wash.-based Costco Wholesale Corp., with a projected $127.9 billion in sales, has about 70% of its 687 outlets in the U.S., according to Gregory who said it is scheduled to open 24 new stores by fiscal year 2015.

“While the growth of ancillary businesses and an expanded service offering should boost domestic sales, international club expansion will drive new member growth, which will propel a stronger bottom line,” he said. “The first store in France is scheduled for 2016, following on from entry into Spain in 2014.”

French retailer Carrefour is No. 3, with $119.8 billion in sales when converted to U.S. dollars, and 12,965 outlets.

Gregory noted that despite increasing sales in their local currency, many European and Japanese retailers declined their ranking on the list due to currency exchange rates to the U.S. dollar.

Kroger, with $116.4 billion in sales and 3,750 stores takes the No. 4 spot, followed by Tesco.

The U.K.-based retailer is coming off a “nightmare year, rocked by leadership changes, the accountancy scandal, negative like-for-like sales and a record loss,” according to Gregory. “Further disposals are likely [such as Dunnhumby] and international markets such as South Korea, as it looks to rebuild its balance sheet and generate funds to invest in the U.K.”

While the outlook for Tesco and its 7,990 stores isn’t all doom and gloom, it still has a fair amount of challenges ahead.

“Tesco is currently on a journey and recent trading has actually improved and it is actually performing stronger than rivals such as Walmart’s Asda,” added Gregory. “However, it will be a long journey and with like-for-likes at its hypermarkets continuing to decline and with store openings being scaled back, Tesco is likely to fall further down the global ranking in the coming years.”

7-Eleven parent Seven & I, is the No. 6 retailer with $101.4 billion in sales across 38,009 outlets which include its retail banners and its nonfood offerings such as department stores.

U.S. invasion

It’s followed in the ranking by Lidl parent, Schwarz Group, with $99.7 billion in sales. Earlier this summer, Lidl confirmed plans to expand beyond Europe for the first time, to the U.S., but these stores are not expected to open in the near-term and therefore did not factor into Planet Retail’s projections. Schwarz Group has also announced market entries in Serbia (Kaufland, Lidl) and Lithuania (Lidl), according to Gregory.

With $96.2 billion in sales, U.S.-based Walgreens Boots Alliance is ranked No. 8. Its position was boosted by Walgreen’s acquisition of the remaining 55% of Alliance Boots that it did not own, to form the first global pharmacy-led, health and wellbeing enterprise and the largest purchaser of prescription drugs in the world.

Japanese retailer Aeon is No. 9 on the list with $92.1 billion in sales and 19,171 total outlets. And rounding out the top 10 is Aldi, which, according to Gregory, is among the retailers who’ve slipped down the ranking due to an unfavorable EUR-to-USD exchange rate.

Aldi’s expansion plans include new stores in a range of markets including some in Western and Southern Australia and West Coast and Southern California stores in the U.S. In addition to acquiring the Bottom Dollar chain from Delhaize, it hopes to more than double its stores in the U.K. by 2022, according to Gregory.

Minneapolis-based Target Corp., No. 11 on the list, “will accelerate small-box and urban expansion, via TargetExpress and to a lesser extent CityTarget,” said Gregory. “After having opened its first TargetExpress location last summer in its home market of Minneapolis, Target is set to open eight additional locations in 2015, more than half of its total planned store openings for the year.”

With $79.9 billion in sales, France-based Auchan is the 12th ranked retailer, followed by Metro Group (No. 13) with $77.9 billion in sales.

No. 14 on the list, CVS, with $70.5 billion in sales and 7,923 stores will continue to expand organically as well as benefit from the store-within-a-store concept that will result from its purchase of Target’s 1,660 in-store pharmacies and 80 in-store clinics, Gregory said.

“A clear trend amongst all players on the ranking is the shifting focus towards smaller formats,” he told SN. “Even the likes of Walmart are trying to decrease the proportion of sales from big-box stores as they look to embrace smaller formats, such as Walmart to Go and Walmart on Campus.

“In addition, investing in stores to make them a more integral part of the online shopping experience has become a priority with all leading players introducing click and collect facilities across their store networks. Clearly, this will be part of their attempts to reinvent the weak performing big-box stores, as well as measures such as improved service, greater use of in-store technology and trying to cater to the mobile shopper in the stores.”

Other notable retailers on the list include No. 19 Albertsons, with $56.8 billion in sales, whose ranking was boosted as a result of its merger with Safeway, and No. 22 Ahold, whose $46.7 billion sales projection does not include its forthcoming merger with Delhaize, according to Gregory.

ALDI invades Richmond.


Aldi opened its first two stores in the Richmond, Va., market on Thursday, the company said.

The stores, located in Colonial Heights and Henrico, join a crowded grocery field that already includes Kroger, Giant-Martin’s and Food Lion, is awaiting construction of two Wegmans stores, and is reportedly among the metro areas where Aldi’s German rival Lidl is seeking its initial U.S. sites in 2018. Aldi reportedly has another six sites in the Richmond market coming, including a Waynesboro, Va., store scheduled to open in early May.

Also Thursday, Aldi opened what would be its westernmost U.S. store, in Brownwood, Texas, southwest of Dallas. Aldi’s U.S. headquarters is in Batavia, Ill.


Guerra del jamón en supermercados de Gran Bretaña.


Tenía que ocurrir. Con unos 800.000 británicos asentados más o menos permanentemente en España, sólo era cuestión de tiempo antes de que cambiaran sus costumbres. Aquí era fácil lanzarse a por los langostinos y los percebes en lugar del cucurucho de ‘fish and chips’. Pero con tanto trasiego de idas y venidas, algunos hábitos han llegado a las islas para quedarse. Como el vicio de comer jamón serrano. Un capricho que ha desatado una guerra.

Lo cuenta Graham Ruddick en The Daily Telegraph: ‘El jamón se­rrano es­pañol es el centro de una guerra de pre­cios en los su­per­mer­cados bri­tá­nicos estas Navidades’. ¿Es que tam­bién han cam­biado las fa­mi­lias el pavo asado con salsa de arán­danos por unas buenas lon­chas de jamón ja­món? No es exac­ta­mente eso, pero sí es verdad que va­rias ca­denas de ali­men­ta­ción se han en­zar­zado en una ‘guerra del ja­món’ en busca del cliente. Y para ga­narse adep­tos, tirar el precio hacia abajo es la fór­mula más a mano.

Los com­ba­tientes prin­ci­pales son dos ca­denas ale­ma­nas, Aldi y Lidl, aunque otras han en­trado en com­bate. Según Ruddick, Aldi y Lidl ‘han es­ta­ble­cido un nuevo listón en cuanto a pre­cios y han trans­for­mado la per­cep­ción sobre la ca­lidad de los ali­mentos en la mente de los con­su­mi­dores bri­tá­ni­cos, y todo ello gra­cias al jamón se­rra­no’. Más aún, el jamón ‘dice más que ningún otro pro­ducto sobre la evo­lu­ción de nues­tros gustos o sobre el cambio ra­dical de los há­bitos de com­pra’.

‘Miles de ho­gares en todo el país aca­barán estas Navidades con jamón se­rrano en sus pla­tos’, añade el Telegraph. La razón prin­cipal es que ya se sabe de qué va eso del ja­món. Y luego, la ca­rrera hacia de­bajo de los pre­cios em­pren­dida por Aldi y Lidl desde hace un año. Empezó Lidl con un spot de te­le­vi­sión que pro­mo­cio­naba un jamón en­tero. Precio: 51 eu­ros, equi­va­lente a 7,27 por kilo. Y como era pre­vi­si­ble, en estos doce meses las ventas se han dis­pa­rado un 300%. Pero llegó Asda y bajó la pata a 49 eu­ros. Y Aldi ter­ció: por 44,56 euros se puede com­prar un ja­món. Eso deja el kilo a 6,85 eu­ros.

Otra cosa es la ca­li­dad. En los es­ta­ble­ci­mientos de lujo, el mejor jamón pata negra de verdad se puede ad­quirir por 2.480 euros o así. Y un muy buen ibé­rico sale por 57 euros el kilo. Los que dis­tri­buyen las ca­denas po­pu­lares son ja­mones se­rranos sin más, pero tam­bién sin me­nos. Waitrose, por ejem­plo, los en­carga a una red de pro­duc­tores de Cataluña y de Teruel. Son pro­vee­dores con los que han tar­dado años en es­ta­blecer la pauta de su­mi­nis­tro.

Pero esta guerra del jamón se­rrano se ins­cribe además en la nueva si­tua­ción de la ma­nera de com­prar de los bri­tá­nicos y de los eu­ro­peos en ge­ne­ral. En re­su­midas cuen­tas: en tiempos de crisis el precio cuenta más que otros ar­gu­men­tos. Por eso el cre­ci­miento de Aldi y Lidl es pa­ra­lelo a los pro­blemas que están te­niendo cada vez más otras ca­denas como Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Morrisons y la misma Asda. Se está im­plan­tando un mo­delo de ne­gocio con menos per­so­nal, mu­chos menos pro­ductos pero es­co­gidos y ofertas gancho dos o tres veces a la se­mana.

Se tiran al cuello por ganar un cliente: que se lo digan a Lidl con la re­ciente po­lé­mica en España por sus pro­mo­ciones de vinos Protos y Marqués de Cáceres a bajo pre­cio.

The 14 best supermarkets in America (…and Part II)


Reader score: 83
Location: Iowa, Neb., Ill., Minn.
Year founded: 1983

This Midwest chain received top scores in service and price satisfaction and above-average scores on cleanliness and perishables. Earlier this year, the company named a new CEO: Reynolds Cramer, who started out as a stock boy on the supermarket floor at age 16.


Reader score: 83
Location: Calif. and Nev.
Year founded: 1934

This family-owned chain received the top score on cleanliness and perishables, an above-average score on service, and a below-average score on price satisfaction. Current CEO Michael Teel is the grandson of the Raley’s founder; he ran the company from 1996 to 2002 and returned to the helm in 2010 in an effort to keep the company private.

A Market Basket Supermarket, courtesy of Market Basket via Facebook, www.facebook.com/MarketBasketFoods
Market Basket

Reader score: 83
Location: N.H., Mass., Maine
Year founded: 1962

This New England-based, family-owned discount grocer competes hard for price-conscious shoppers. In January it announced a 4 percent year-long discount for customers.

A Sprouts Farmers Market in Los Angeles © Jonathan Alcorn/Reuters
Sprouts Farmers Market

Reader score: 84
Location:  Ariz., Calif., Colo., Nev., N.M., Okla., Texas, Utah, and Kan.
Year founded: 2001

A newcomer to the list this year, Sprouts Farmers Market (SFM) specializes in fresh and whole-grain foods. With more than 170 stores and 1,400 team members, the chain went public last August; shares have fallen about 20 percent since its market debut.

A shopper pushes a cart outside Costco Wholesale in Danvers, Mass. © Elise Amendola/AP

Reader score: 84
Location: Nationwide
Year founded: 1983

The warehouse chain received the top score in price and perishables, an above-average score for cleanliness, and a neutral score for customer service. Of course, Costco’s (COST) model minimizes service and quick cashiers in exchange for the deals it can offer customers on a daily basis.

A Publix supermarket © Sean Pavone/Alamy

Reader score: 85
Location: Fla., Ala., Ga., N.C., S.C., and Tenn.
Year founded: 1930

The largest employee-owned supermarket in the United States, Publix is also the most profitable. The chain was the only grocer to appear on J.D. Power’s list of 2014 Customer Champions, which recognizes outstanding customer service.

A pedestrian walks past a Trader Joe's Co. store in San Francisco © David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images
Trader Joe’s

Reader score: 87
Location: Nationwide
Year founded: 1967

This offbeat supermarket chain, which features a limited assortment of goods and specializes in store brands and unusual foods, has gained a rabid fan base. Its Hawaiian shirt-clad workers cater primarily to gourmands and high-end shoppers.

The Wegmans grocery store in Rochester, N.Y. © age fotostock/Alamy

Reader score: 88
Location: N.Y., N.J., Pa., Md., Mass., and Va.
Year founded: 1916

Wegmans received the highest possible ranking on perishables, service, and cleanliness, and the second-highest ranking for prices. Wegmans has been recognized not only for taking care of its customers, but also for taking care of its employees: The chain ranked fifth on Fortune’s list of the 100 Best Companies to Work For.

The 14 best supermarkets in America (Part I)


Great grocers

The supermarket as we know it is changing. A wave of consolidations is sweeping the industry, and the largest chains are changing focus as they face increasing competition from more niche stores. Online-only competitors like Amazon (AMZN) Fresh and FreshDirect are also gaining market share.

The changes could be good news for consumers, many of whom have qualms about the current in-store shopping experience. A survey of more than 27,000 subscribers in the May issue of Consumer Reports finds that although most consumers are satisfied overall, more than half had at least one complaint about their current store. Almost a third of customers had two or more problems with their grocer.

The survey revealed that a few stores are doing a great job of satisfying their customers. The magazine graded 55 major chains based on the consumer survey and found that east-coast chain Wegmans ranked the best, with a score of 88 out of 100 possible points.

At the other end of the list, retail behemoth Wal-Mart (WMT) scored the worst, receiving a paltry 67.

Consumers are becoming far less loyal to their supermarkets and are increasingly willing to visit more than one store, picking up the basics at one supermarket, traveling to another for ethnic or gourmet foods, and filling out the rest of their needs with online shipments.


Reader score: 81
Location: Texas, northern Mexico
Year founded: 1905

H-E-B appeals to the Texas pride of its customers, with private labels often referencing the Lone Star State and “Hill Country Fare.” The chain received above-average rankings on all categories on the survey.


Reader score: 81
Location: N.C., S.C., Va., Ga., Tenn., Fla., Md., Del., and D.C.
Year founded: 1939

In January, supermarket giant Kroger (KR) finalized its purchase of this southeastern chain for $2.5 billion. The combined company will operate more than 2,600 stores and employ more than 368,000 workers.


Reader score: 81
Location: Ill., Iowa, Mo., Kan., Neb., S.D., Minn., Wis.
Year founded: 1930

At this supermarket, customers never have to shop hungry: They can sit down to a full meal before stocking up their carts. The Midwestern chain has announced plans to remodel 75 of its stores in the next three years to feature a full-service restaurant and bar.


Reader score: 81
Location: Nationwide
Year founded: 1913

Owned by the same German company that owns Trader Joe’s, Aldi has been expanding rapidly, adding more than 80 new stores annually in recent years.  The store’s fans love the low prices so much that they’re willing to pay a quarter to use a cart in the store.


Reader score: 81
Location: Ariz., Calif., Idaho, Nev., Ore., Utah, Wash.
Year founded: 1967

This employee-owned chain has garnered a huge reputation within the supermarket industry for its rock-bottom prices, which often even undercut the deals offered by Wal-Mart (WMT). However, unlike Wal-Mart, which is often criticized for its treatment of employees, Win-Co is an employee-owned chain, and offers most staffers, including part-time employees, pension benefits and a health plan.

5CF7FC10ED93DB984993397D61D5E3_h218_w423_m6_ofalse_lfalse_bwhiteStater Bros.

Reader score: 83
Location: Calif.
Year founded: 1936

Stater Bros. is the largest privately owned supermarket chain in Southern California, with more than 18,000 employees and nearly $4 billion in annual revenue. The store received the highest rating in price satisfaction, and an above-average rating on service, cleanliness, and perishables.


Alternative chains boost expansion.


From Aldi to Whole Foods Market, nontraditional food retailers in recent weeks have unveiled new growth plans that ramp up their rates of new-store expansion and bring them into new markets.

While alternative-format growth has outpaced that of traditional supermarket retailers for several years, the latest growth plans from these operators represent a new level of development.

Batavia, Ill.-based Aldi, for example, the limited-assortment operator that has been one of the fastest-growing food retailers in the U.S., said it would now open stores at an even faster pace, with plans for 650 new stores in the next five years. Its plans also call for the establishment of a Southern California warehouse and headquarters to be located in Moreno Valley, Calif. — marking the chain’s first presence west of Kansas.

Whole Foods Market, meanwhile, has increased its store-count goal to 1,200 — up from the 1,000 units it has been projecting for several years — according to one Wall Street analyst.

Kelly Bania, a New York-based analyst with BMO Capital Markets, said in a report that Whole Foods executives told her they now see the company’s growth potential in the U.S. as 1,200 locations.

This is a key positive for Whole Foods,” Bania wrote, “and suggests the company remains very optimistic about its ability to continue expanding, supported in part by recent success in new markets such as Detroit, where sales are trending twice that of projections.”

Ironically, Bania’s report came out just as some industry observers had been speculating that Whole Foods was running out of room to expand, thanks to a mention in its most recent earnings report of cannibalization impacting some stores’ sales.

Karen Short, a New York-based analyst with Deutsche Bank, said she believes the cannibalization — related in part to the recent conversion of Johnny’s Foodmaster stores in the Boston area — is a short-term phenomenon, and that, in fact, Whole Foods is “significantly underpenetrated nationally.” She conducted a detailed cannibalization and market-saturation analysis, based on the number of Whole Foods locations per person per state, and concluded that the chain has plenty of room to add stores in every state in which it operates.

In addition to the reports of Whole Foods’ expansion potential, other natural and organic and specialty chains also have unveiled plans to enter into new markets, including the fast-growing Sprouts Farmers Market, Natural Grocers by Vitamin Cottage, Lucky’s Market and Fresh Thyme Farmer’s Market.

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