Monday, June 4, 2012

West Coast Bound - Aldi USA Headed to Southern California; First Stores to Open in 2013

Discount grocery chain Aldi USA is headed to Southern California in a big way -- and soon.

The hard-discount grocer, which is headquartered in Germany and has its U.S. corporate office in Illinois, will set up shop in Southern California in the coming months, with plans to open its first stores in the region in nine months to a year, Fresh & Easy Buzz has learned.

Aldi plans to open about 100 stores on the west coast during its first two years (starting in 2013) of operation, according to our sources who are familiar with the grocery chain's plans.

Aldi also has longer-term plans in the west, following those first stores in Southern California, to eventually open its small-format (about 10,000 square-foot) grocery markets throughout California and in other nearby western states, including Nevada, Arizona and others, according to our sources.

Aldi USA currently plans to build and open a distribution center in Riverside County, California, where Tesco has its 850,000 square-foot facility for its 190-plus-store Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market chain, to serve its stores in Southern California and elsewhere on the west coast. Construction of the distribution facility is set to begin soon, according to our sources.

As part of its plans to open its first stores in Southern California in nine months to one year, Aldi USA is currently looking for a buying director and buying manager, both of which will be based in the region.

Aldi representatives are interviewing candidates for the positions tomorrow and Wednesday in Southern California. Once hired, the buying managers will move to Chicago for an eight month training period, where they will be trained at Aldi's corporate office and in its stores in the region. They, along with numerous other regional employees, will then be based in Aldi's west coast offices in Southern California.

The buyer manager candidates being interviewed this week have been selected for Aldi by an executive search firm, Reaction Search International.

In addition to the key buying/merchandising positions, Aldi USA will soon be hiring for other positions for Southern California and the west coast, ranging from other corporate headquarters functions to the planned distribution center in Riverside, and for the stores.

The arrival of Aldi in Southern California will be a major game-changer in the region, as has been the case in each market the discount grocer has entered in the U.S., which includes the Midwest, South, Mid-Atlantic, eastern and Southwest (Texas) regions in the U.S. Aldi currently has about 1,300 stores in the U.S.

Aldi, which is privately-held and keeps such developments very close to the vest, has not announced its upcoming plans for Southern California and the west coast, not is it confirming our report. But our information comes from multiple sources, all in positions to know the details reported on in this piece.

More to come...