German discount retailer Aldi is attracting consummate amounts of local media speculation on its imminent arrival in Australia. Due to open its first outlet in Nowra at the end of this week, the opening dates for Wallsend and Cessnock stores are still under embargo and interest has been further sparked by the news that staff have been sent on expensive training courses in the UK and Germany.

Aldi management are following a strict company “global policy of not talking to the media” on all queries, but speculation as to opening dates is in some way qualified by the building status of the new stores. In Wallsend, the newly refurbished outlet destined for Aldi is receiving only the last finishing touches and looks ready to open next month at the latest.

At Cessnock meanwhile, council officials point to a half-finished purpose built Aldi supermarket when asked for a completion date on the A$2.3m store project.

With regard to staffing issues, Aldi has been extremely secretive, even down to the point of headhunting for staff rather than advertising through the normal channels. Not surprising however, when the huge amount of investment in every member of staff is considered.

Pay for a full-time adult employee is a third larger at the Aldi store than what the union otherwise demands for employees on checkouts, shelf-stackers or cleaners. The world’s 7th largest retailer is believed to have sent 15 Australian staff to Germany or the UK for intensive training.

The Department of Immigration also revealed that an agreement was ain place between Aldi and the commonwealth that enabled the provision of 30 visas for core management staff in Germany and 50 visas for temporary staff to work in the new Australian stores.

Industry experts are expecting the Aldi stores to virtually revolutionise Australian shopping habits. In the 100 stores to be opened across New South Wales, only 700-800 private label grocery products will be sold as one size or variety at below 30-40% the cost of branded products.

The no-frills shopping may not bring the convenience of free carrier bags, grocery packers or even fully erected shelving units (Aldi stacks produce on floor pallets) but it is certainly popular. The group now operate 4,800 stores globally, and during 1999 its turnover in the US alone was posted at US$4bn.