what can bus travel learn from Aldi?

I bumped into my neighbours at the weekend, just as they were off out in their nice, shiny BMW.

"Off anywhere nice, Brian?" I asked. "Only to Aldi for the weekly shop" came the reply.

A few years ago, you'd have been hard pushed to find a relatively well-off family who admitted to shopping at Aldi. Now it's almost seen as a badge of honour ('I've seen the light and understand the principle of value for money'), or as a minimum, done with no degree of shame whatsoever.

My wife and I used to shop at Tesco but now also shop at Aldi. So what convinced us to ditch the retail apathy, alter our behaviour and move allegiance from the establishment to the relative upstart?

A number of things influenced us when it came to parting from the Tesco bosom.

Among them...
  1. We had a growing number of friends who had already made 'the switch'. So when we had a question, they were there to answer it and when we needed reassurance, they were there to provide it.
  2. We knew Aldi would be cheaper, so it was just a case of giving it a try and seeing if the quality was comprised. That first step, however, was the hardest to take.
  3. Aldi shops were popping up everywhere. There must be something in that, right?
  4. Aldi went big with their 'value for money' advertising message.
  5. Their food was winning awards and was consistently beating the competition in blind taste tests. They advertised this in a thought-provoking way that encouraged behavioural change.
  6. They used their lack of store size and product options (a simple basic and premium in most categories) as a positive point of difference. After all, who needs 15 types of olive oil to choose from?
Aldi is nowhere near perfect, though. Stock availability and consistency are sporadic, there are no self-service tills and shop floor staff can be unhelpful, however, the overarching parallels between Aldi's position five or so years ago and many people's perception of bus travel today are plain to see.

And there are lots of lessons to be learnt from how our German retail cousins approached the challenge.