It was the hybrid cars parked outside that first signalled the arrival of a new type of shopper at the discount supermarket Aldi; then the Bugaboo Frogs that started clogging up the aisles. Once it was strictly for budget shoppers, but slowly but surely the bastion of discount retail is seeing a new type of customer walk through its sliding doors. And it isn’t only Aldi that is witnessing a change. Lidl, Poundstretcher, Primark and Peacocks, long the preserve of the budget-conscious, are fast becoming a stamping ground for the fashion-conscious, too. Because as fast as their credit is being crunched, shoppers are getting savvy.
Welcome to the age of the Aldirati. Defined recently by the trend forecasters the Future Laboratory, they are the new consumer group on the block, recognisable by their high household incomes (£80,000- £100,000 a year) and strategic approach to shopping. Also known as the no-frills affluents (NFAs), they are drawn to pragmatic, practical products, not prepared to pay premium prices for either essentials or flash-in-the pan trends, but determined to maintain their pre-crunch lifestyles. And they are making their presence felt all over the high street.
“In the past three years, the number of ABC1 customers in my stores has doubled,” says Paul Foley, managing director of Aldi in the UK and Ireland. And similar statistics are coming out of Lidl, which has seen a 13% rise in sales. But while the savings these retailers offer are significant (25% on the average shopping basket at Aldi), this is not a simple case of people downgrading their goods to save a few pennies. As Martin Lewis, the creator of Moneysavingexpert.com, explains: “It’s a specific cohesive philosophy and it means cutting your bills without cutting back. It’s not thrift. It’s different.”
NFAs have grown used to the finer things in life and aren’t about to let a bit of budgeting get in the way. They may be trading down when it comes to certain items — own-brand cleaning products, good old Colman’s Mustard and Suttons seeds are all enjoying a revival — but they are not about to start cutting back on others that they have come to regard as essential. And their new favourite shops are rushing to meet their demands. “We’ve launched a lot of new luxury products in the past year or so,” says Foley. Cue bresaola and mortadella alongside the luncheon meat at the deli counter, and yellowfin sole and smoked salmon in among the battered cod. And witness the launch and subsequent run on the infamous £5 lobster at Lidl. Yet, however brilliant the bargains, for NFAs, sometimes discount just won’t do. Pauline Kent, a PR director from Norfolk, started shopping in Aldi and Lidl a year ago, and reckons that she saves about £300 a month. But she has limits. “What I tend to do now is a supermarket shop, then I shop locally for certain items. I go to a fantastic local butcher and farm shop. I’ve never really liked polystyrene-wrapped meat.” She has, though, had to suffer the shock of her friends. “I’m almost evangelical about it. I held tasting sessions for friends at my house. And now more of them are changing the way they think. When I was in Aldi the other day, you should have seen all the Audis and BMWs in the car park."
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Aldi is AWESOME for pet food (canned and dry), tinned tomatoes, Jaffa biscuits, dried herbs and spices, toothpaste, everyday frozen puff pastry, blocks of chocolate, canned sweet corn and dry biscuits.
Avoid their "bourbon". It will kill you.