Shoppers line up before doors open at new Aldi

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 11, 2012

By Emily Ford
SALISBURY — New neighbors Aldi and Harris Teeter could offer a one-two punch to draw some grocery shoppers away from Walmart.
“I hope so,” said Kendra Shaw, director of operations for Aldi’s Salisbury division, which includes North Carolina and South Carolina.
Aldi opened a second Salisbury location Wednesday across Brenner Avenue from Harris Teeter. More than 100 people were in line when doors opened at 11 a.m., and by noon the parking lot was full.
Some people parked in the Harris Teeter lot and walked across the street. The store will hold a grand opening starting at 9 a.m. today.
Most consumers can find about 85 percent of what they need at Aldi, a discount grocer, Shaw said. But Aldi doesn’t offer a butcher, deli or bakery, and Harris Teeter does, she said.
Many customers checking out the freestanding 18,761-square-foot store are already loyal Aldi shoppers, and several said they will shop at the new location because it’s more convenient.
“I’m so glad this one is here,” said Annie Robinson, who lives a few blocks away. “I can walk this far if I need to.”
The first Aldi at 115 Avalon Drive is one of the top performing stores in North Carolina and South Carolina, Shaw said. A market study showed many customers were coming from the other side of town.
While the new location had nothing to do with Harris Teeter, Shaw said, customers may find it convenient to use both stores to complete their shopping.
Whether some Harris Teeter shoppers will venture into a discount grocer is another matter.
“People are snobs,” said Joe Lancione, who shops at Aldi twice a week. “It’s crazy. We save money when we come here.”
A grocery retailer that has grown without merger or acquisition, Aldi opened 75 stores in the United States in 2011 and plans to open more than 80 stores in 2012. Aldi has more than 1,200 U.S. stores located in 32 states.
In North Carolina and South Carolina, Aldi opens between four and six stores per year, Shaw said. Aldi plans a third Greensboro store in 2013 and is negotiating for property in Cornelius.
Calling the growth “fantastic,” Shaw said shoppers see 25 percent to 50 percent savings at Aldi.
The new store features the grocery chain’s “new look” with higher ceilings, more natural light and environmentally friendly building materials.
Customers at the new location still need a quarter to rent a shopping cart, which is refunded when they return the cart. They also must bring their own bags, buy bags at Aldi or use empty cardboard boxes from store shelves.
“We ask customers to do a little bit of extra work so we can keep prices down,” Shaw said. “Once they understand what they will save day in and day out on groceries, they are happy to help.”
Longtime Aldi customers Betty and Archie Yates said they recommend it to their friends, especially the produce section.
“There’s nothing like it,” Betty Yates said.
Aldi does not carry organic produce. While people are interested, not many are willing to spend the extra money, Shaw said.
Customers at the new store will find the same 1,400 most-frequently purchased items stocked at all Aldi’s.
“They’re not necessarily name brands that I know, but they are good products and they are for a good price,” Lauren Mats said.
Leena Rocco maneuvered the crowded store Wednesday with her 2-year-old, Paisley, in her cart. She said she splits her grocery shopping between Aldi and Trader Joe’s in Charlotte and will frequent the new location because it’s closer to home.
Grand opening prices run through Tuesday. The store manager is Melissa Christie.
Contact reporter Emily Ford at 704-797-4264.