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Aldi’s “Aisle of Shame” Raises a Merchandising Question

It’s a known source of sales, but should the grocer do something about it?




An Aldi’s location in Athens, Georgia. Credit: SeanPavonePhoto, iStock

In the most unexpected of cultural phenomena, the discount aisle at Aldi has achieved such a level of internet fandom that it has earned a moniker as the “Aisle of Shame” (AOS) and inspired numerous Facebook groups that celebrate it, Atlas Obscura writes.

The aisle is stocked with a 50-50 split of food and non-food items and is estimated to be a significant source of sales, the article says. In the Facebook groups – some of which number in the tens of thousands – fans post pictures of their strangest and most deeply discounted finds.

The groups even invented a special “call” that allows their members to identify each other in-store. If you’re in Aldi and hear a “CAW-CAW!” ring out, that’s one AOS group member searching for another.

The aisle, Retail Wire writes, is presumably named for the guilty pleasure that comes with shopping it. As such, it inspires a thought exercise: Should Aldi take a hands-off approach with the aisle, or be more hands-on in terms of marketing it? Should other retailers mimic this merchandising approach?

Some retail industry leaders weighed in on these questions, which you can check out at the bottom of Retail Wire’s article. Overwhelmingly, the sentiment is that Aldi shouldn’t fix a thing that isn’t broken.

“The instant that ‘treasure hunt’ can legitimately be applied to a retail shopping experience is a winning moment,” says Jeff Sward, Founding Partner of Merchandising Metrics. “It creates an ‘I want to go to the grocery store’ mentality versus a ‘I have to…’ mentality. Not many grocery stores can say that. Sounds like a much more creative approach that the current ‘seasonal’ approach taken by my grocery store. That aisle is predictably boring and easily avoidable. Aldi has created a go-to location. Predictable unpredictability is under-employed by so many retailers.”


Read more at Retail Wire.



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