- Aldi is in the midst of a large expansion in New Jersey, with plans to open at least six new stores this year and expand and modernize many of its existing locations, according to NJ.com.
- The discount grocer, which already has more than 40 locations in the Garden State, recently opened a new store in Voorhees outside of Philadelphia. New stores have been approved in other parts of the state — Egg Harbor Township, Old Bridge, Livingston, Winslow Township and Pohatcong.
- Renovated stores, including one that opened last week in Toms River, consist of additional aisles to make room for more products like fresh food, produce, dairy and baked goods, as well as open ceilings with natural light.
While New Jersey is one of the smallest states — ranking 47th in the nation — its population, which the U.S. Census Bureau estimates at around 9 million, is the 11th largest. With so many residents in the state, and easily accessible suburbs to Philadelphia and New York City, it makes sense for Aldi to target it as part of its aggressive $5 billion expansion. The population density in New Jersey makes for a lot of shoppers.
But beyond the numbers, does such an expansion make sense? After all, Aldi was already the fifth-largest store in New Jersey last year — with even more locations selling food than national grocery leader Walmart. And in a market dominated by local players, including Wakefern-owned ShopRite and Ahold Delhaize's Stop & Shop, many analysts have said there is not much room for growth in the state. After all, industry experts have said the dominance of these chains prevented Kroger, which dominates many retail markets elsewhere in the U.S., from entering New Jersey when A&P's bankruptcy provided an opportunity.
A hard discounter like Aldi can argue that it doesn't compete with more conventional stores. Even when expanded, the stores, which have an average size of 12,000 square feet, are primed for the "quick trips" that market research firm IRi has found account for two-thirds of all shopping trips and a third of all expenses. More locations mean more opportunity, and Aldi already knows the New Jersey market, having operated stores there for more than two decades.
Aldi's market knowledge and already large footprint in the state also insulate it from the kind of high-profile failure Lidl has seen, abruptly halting work on a location in Mantua Township in December. The location was just the second in the state for a chain that had an arguably over-aggressive U.S. expansion plan. And while that location isn't open yet, Lidl has not walked away from the state. In addition to the location it opened in Vineland last year, Lidl is currently building two stores in Monmouth County.
To think of Aldi's New Jersey expansion as over ambitious is to forget about the store's history in the United States. After all, Aldi has been in the country for more than 40 years and has thrived. It's only been in the last decade that the store gained prominence and popularity as consumer preference shifted toward inexpensive private label products. The hard discounter with a recognized name should continue to fill a niche in New Jersey, weathering any storms to come.