Aldi to launch online store in new year
DISCOUNT supermarket Aldi will start selling their wine and non-food items online from early next year, the company have announced.
They say they'll be selling wine by the case within the first three months of the year, before adding what they call "Specialbuys" - a variety of non-food items at special prices, as often sold in store - later.
They also say they're on track to have opened 65 stores by the end of this year, adding to the 598 they already have around the UK.
The announcement came as they released their annual figures, which showed their sales have continued to grow dramatically - but that their profits have dropped slightly.
Like Poundland, who started selling goods online at the start of September, Aldi's early plan for their online operation involves supplying customer favourites in bulk.
In this case, that means their apparently incredibly popular wine: the company say they already sell 1,000 bottles from their Exquisite Collection every hour.
Unlike Poundland, however, they won't be offering anything else to tempt customers to spend more - at least not at first.
From the spring, they say they'll bring in the kind of non-food product offers customers are used to finding in the baskets along the aisles of their local store.
Whether there'll be as much variety as shoppers are used to finding in store - ranging from sporting gear to toilet roll, health and beauty products to plants, and plenty of seasonal items - remains to be seen.
There's also no word on when - or even if - they plan to start selling food online.
However, whatever they do buy, customers will be able to choose between home delivery or collecting their order from a third party location.
Aldi clearly hope that by starting with what their UK and Ireland chief executive Matthew Barnes calls "the most viable" products, they'll continue to expand - both in terms of their market share, and in being able to plan and build more stores.
They've more than doubled their market share in the past three years, making them the UK's sixth biggest grocer.
In the 12 months to December 31st 2015, Aldi saw their sales rise to £6.9 billion - up 31% on their sales of £5.27 billion from 2013.
Although that makes them the fastest growing supermarket in the UK last year, it does mark something of a slowdown for them - they grew by 65% in 2013, and by 124% in 2012; their profits have also fallen slightly, from £271.4 million in 2013 to £260.3 million in 2014.
Aldi say that dip is the result of their "investment in prices and people", referring to the extra 7,000 staff they took on during 2014, and the price cuts they've made to maintain their edge over the big supermarkets.
Not that they need to worry too much about the likes of Tesco, and Sainsbury's - Barnes says his stores are "consistently 42p cheaper per item than the market average".
Aldi's main competition is the other big discounter, Lidl - who grabbed the headlines earlier this month for announcing they would be paying their staff more than hourly rates recommended by the Living Wage Foundation from October.
Way back in 2005, Aldi were making similar headlines, at least within the industry, for advertising hourly wages of £7.20 an hour, with £8.20 an hour being possible when bonuses were factored in - at a time when the National Minimum Wage was just £5.05 an hour.
Aldi say that 90% of their staff already earn more than the suggested Living Wage - but in response to a vocal email and Twitter campaign calling for them to do more, they've said they're "actively engaging" with the Living Wage Foundation.
Their new wage rates will be announced in January - after the Living Wage Foundation have set their new recommended rates, which they do each November.
In the face of increasing pressure on prices and market share, industry analysts say they don't expect the big four UK supermarkets to follow suit regarding the Living Wage.
Hopes of a revival
Yet, despite having to close 11 stores and sell off 140 "M Local" convenience shops in an effort to save £1 billion, Morrisons have announced that they're going to pay more than £8 an hour from March next year.
Staff will see their minimum hourly rate rise from £6.83 to £8.20 outside London, with workers in London possibly getting up to £8.95 an hour.
The national rate matches that set by Lidl, but the London rate is lower than that recommended by the Living Wage Foundation.
Shop workers will no longer be paid for their breaks, but Morrisons say their staff told them they'd prefer to have a higher hourly wage.
The pay rise will cost the company £40 million, but chief executive David Potts said it was important to recognise "the contribution of our excellent staff, who are so important to the revival of Morrisons".