Smyrna ALDI grocery store opens its doors

The new Smyrna ALDI grocery store features 22,245 total square feet — including around 12,000 square feet of retail space — to go with room for storage and offices. There are 112 parking spaces. Delaware State News/Marc Clery

SMYRNA — The long-awaited ALDI grocery store in Smyrna officially opened its doors on Dec. 6. The new location, at 1382 S Dupont Blvd. is tucked behind the Wawa convenience store in the Simon’s Corner shopping center.

Despite near freezing temperatures on Dec. 6, the grand opening hosted a packed parking lot with hundreds of anxious shoppers. A quarter-mile line that snaked out of the parking lot started forming around 8 a.m. made of customers vying to be among the first 100 to shop at the new store and receive “golden ticket gift cards.” One lucky shopper would even be selected to receive free produce for a year, noted management.

ALDI Center Valley Division Vice President Bob Grammer said the influx of new customers was a positive indicator for the location’s future.

“We were thrilled to officially open our doors to the Smyrna community,” he said. “Many loyal ALDI shoppers, as well as new fans, shopped at the new Smyrna store on opening day. We were pleased with the turnout. We look forward to continuing serving the Smyrna community with our new store.”

The store features 22,245 total square feet — including around 12,000 square feet of retail space — to go with room for storage and offices. There are 112 parking spaces.

The store has a staff of 15 to 20 people, noted Mr. Grammer. Both the reduced grocery store footprint and staff feed into ALDI’s business model of a no-frills retail experience.

ALDI streamlines its approach to staffing, creating cost-saving efficiencies that are passed onto our customers,” said Mr. Grammer.
These efficiencies were quickly noticed by local customers who’d been unfamiliar with ALDI until the opening day.

“The shopping carts are all connected to one another in front of the store and they have quarter slots — so you put a quarter into them to unhook one,” said Terri Bloom of Smyrna. “Then, when you’re done you bring the cart back, hook it in and you get your quarter back. It’s so they don’t have to pay someone to go out and push the carts back in every hour.

“Also they don’t give away free grocery bags, you either have to buy them or bring your own. There are no baggers either. After you get your items rung up, you push your cart off to the side and bag your own groceries. They do things a little different here, but it’s worth it because there seems to be a huge discount on their food. I was surprised at some of the prices.”

Despite near-freezing temperatures, hundreds of local residents lined up on Dec. 6 for the ALDI opening in Smyrna. The first 100 customers received gift cards and the chance to win free produce for a year. Delaware State News/Ian Gronau

Though she normally shops at the Glenwood Avenue ACME Markets in Smyrna, Ms. Bloom says she’s going “try out” ALDI’s products before deciding to switch grocery stores.

“I’m not sure yet, I have to try their food — there were a lot of brands I’m not familiar with,” she said. “Their prices look better so as long as the quality is good, they’re going to be getting my business.”

Competitive wages

Though many of their stores have only a modest staff, ALDI seeks to cement a reputation for competitive compensation when compared to local grocers. Ahead of a hiring event in November for the Smyrna store, ALDI management noted in a press release that employee pay ranged from about $27 per hour to $12.70.

Manager trainees can expect to make $60, 000-$70,000 per year (with an opportunity to make up to $95,000 per year as the store manager. Shift managers can expect to make $16.95 per hour plus a bonus when performing manager duties and full-time store associate make around $12.70 per hour.

Employees averaging more than 25 hours per week are also eligible for full health insurance benefits and dental coverage.

Quickly expanding

The Smyrna store is the German-based discount grocer’s fourth to open in Delaware. According to the company’s management, the store is a small part of ALDI’s larger $3.4 billion campaign to expand to 2,500 stores nationwide by the end of 2022.

ALDI currently has more than 1,800 stores in 35 states — including locations in Camden, Middletown and in Stanton, west of Wilmington. The chain serves more than 40 million customers each month.

As for Smyrna, Mr. Gammer said traffic and real estate availability weighed heavily in ALDI’s decision to locate there.

“When it comes to choosing store locations, we look at many factors,” he said. “We want the best sites that are closest to our shoppers and can support a high daily traffic volume. As the demand for ALDI grows, so do our real estate options. Bottom line, we want to be conveniently located for our shoppers, and Smyrna was a natural fit.”

Yet another ALDI store is expected to serve as the anchor tenant of the Capital Station shopping complex that is currently under construction off U.S. 13 in Dover. Currently under construction, the completion date of the shopping center is still unknown.

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