ALDI shoppers like grocer changes

Georgia Hoskin doesn’t mind giving up a quarter for the hour or so she spends inside an area ALDI store at least once per week.

The Vienna woman, who has been a regular ALDI shopper for years, said she has become “even more of an avid fan” since the discount grocery chain stepped up its game in the Mahoning Valley by renovating its existing stores and adding a new one in Bazetta.

“I like the changes. There’s more room to walk and they seem to have more items,” she said last week during a visit to the recently remodeled Howland store. “I like what they have.”

In February, the chain announced a $1.6 billion nationwide remodel plan to enhance more than 1,300 locations by 2020. With the addition of 650 new locations, scheduled to open by the end of next year, the company expects to invest about $3.4 billion to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022.

The chain later said it was including its stores in the Youngstown-metropolitan area in its plan and that more than $14 million would be invested to remodel them by 2019.

“What we’re really doing is continuing to invest in ALDI customers, bringing people who know and love ALDI, as well as new fans, an even better, more welcoming store to shop,” said Corey Stucker, Hinckley division vice president for ALDI.

The opening of the Bazetta store off Elm Road, scheduled for early next month, will bring the number of ALDI stores in Trumbull County to four.

“It’s nice to know we’ll have another one close by,” said Ely Salero of Howland. “It makes it more convenient for a lot of people. I always make sure I have my quarter.”

Company leaders have said ALDI serves more than 40 million customers across the country each month, a nearly 60 percent increase since 2013.

CEO Jason Hart said with its recent growth, ALDI is expected to become the third largest grocery store by count in the United States and serve 100 million customers each month.

“We pioneered a grocery model built around value, convenience, quality and selection and now ALDI is one of America’s favorite and fastest growing retailers,” Hart said.

ALDI focuses on private-label products that sell for low prices at its more than 1,600 stores across the country.

The Germany-based company is known for its slogan, “Lend us a quarter, and we’ll lend you a cart.” The shopper puts a quarter in the cart, but get its back when the cart is returned — eliminating the need to have a worker collect carts from the parking lot.

“The shopping cart rental system is one of many ALDI efficiencies that enable us to keep our prices so low,” Stucker explained. “New customers may be surprised by the simple, yet innovative, cart rental system, and usually come to appreciate its many benefits. Not only do customers get their deposit back, there are no stray carts taking up space in the parking lot or causing dents to cars. By not having to hire someone to police the shopping carts, we are able to pass the savings on to our customers.”

Customers also pack their own groceries, a move company leaders have said keeps lines moving and cuts down on the customer’s shopping bill. Unlike other grocery stores, ALDI does not supply grocery bags. Instead, some customers bring their own. Others purchase them at the counter.

“There are some people who think it’s a hassle. But I don’t mind it,” said Rachael Jackson of Niles, who said she shops “here and there.”

“I find some items I want at ALDI, but when I don’t I go to another store,” she said. “But I think shopping at ALDI has become more and more popular. It might not be for everyone, but a lot of people really like it and see it as another way to save money when they can.”

The grocery store chain, which has been in the Mahoning Valley nearly 25 years, said it is focusing more on fresh items, including produce, dairy and bakery products.

The chain’s new look features an updated design, open ceilings, natural lighting and environmentally friendly building materials including recycled materials, energy-saving refrigeration and LED lighting, said Stucker.

The company said it plans to add 25,000 new jobs in stores, warehouses and offices across the country.

Locally, the company employs between 15 and 20 people at each of its stores. The other locations are on Parkman Road NW in Warren and Belmont Avenue in Liberty. Mahoning County has two — on Mahoning Avenue in Austintown and on South Avenue in Boardman. In Columbiana County, there is one on East State Street in Salem.