EXCLUSIVE

Aldi has told customers to "stay away" from its supermarkets this week if they were looking to get their hands on one of the most anticipated "special buys" of the year.

The unprecedented warning follows a logistics breakdown that means its special buys - one off drops of seasonal products - are stuck in transit and won't make it to stores on time. In recent weeks, Aldi customers have been venting online that usually plentiful supplies of special buys have been running low.

This Wednesday, Aldi stores across Australia were likely to be rammed by customers keen to get their hands on the $100 German retailer's pre lit Christmas tree. The 2.13 metre tree, featuring hundreds of ready strung fairy lights, was a standout seller last year and had already been widely advertised online and in catalogues as arriving this week.

But if you try and find one on Wednesday in just about any store in every state, bar Queensland, you'll leave empty-handed.

It's the same for scores of other Christmas products - from lights to decorations - that were due to drop midweek. General food and groceries are unaffected. however.

"Discouraging people to shop with us is not something as a retailer we're proud of. But there's just nothing we can do," Aldi Australia's director of customer interactions Adrian Christie told news.com.au.

Aldi has said its popular $100 pre lit tree will not be in store, despite advertising saying it will drop on Wednesday.
Aldi has said its popular $100 pre lit tree will not be in store, despite advertising saying it will drop on Wednesday.

PORT PROBLEMS DELAY DECORATIONS

Mr Christie said he "understood the effort" people go to get special buys.

"A seven foot Christmas tree is not something you necessarily want to take home on the bus; so we know people recruit friends or borrow Utes and big cars to get the tree. We want to minimise the disruption.

"There's nothing like kicking off Christmas with lights and decorations and we'll know it will disappoint customers if they're not there; so we want to get ahead of it and encourage customers to check our website to see what is in stock," he said.

A look at Aldi's web page shows the trees and other items will be delayed to most states and territories. Even in Queensland, where the tree may make it to stores on Wednesday, other Christmas items will not be available.

Plenty of retailers - from Kmart to Big W - have seen empty shelves due to the impacts of COVID-19 on international supply chains.

However, Mr Christie told news.com.au the core issue was industrial action last month at Sydney's Port Botany and other container terminals, which was exacerbated by congestion at the port caused by the pandemic.

"It's been a tapestry of logistic issues that we've had to try and work out."

The Maritime Union of Australia and seaport operator Patrick Corporation have been at loggerheads over pay and conditions and claims about the creeping casualisation of the stevedore workforce.

While the action was suspended in early October, it left an estimated 100,000 containers needing to be sorted.

Industrial action at Sydney’s Port Botany is behind much of the delays. Picture: Julian Andrews.
Industrial action at Sydney’s Port Botany is behind much of the delays. Picture: Julian Andrews.

ON TRUCKS AND TRAINS BUT NOT IN STORE

Aldi said many of the ships with its special buys on, that would have docked at Port Botany and other ports, ended up being unloaded in Brisbane or Melbourne instead. It was taking time to get the products back to where they were needed.

"We're not placing blame, but the backlog from the industrial action had a material impact on the Christmas trees; it's not easy to shuffle containers around and that's led to delays in moving ours through the supply chain.

"We know where the special buys are - they're on trains and trucks, they're just not in store," said Mr Christie.

Asked if the empty shelves were a sign of the failure of the so-called "just in time" global logistics system, where supplies turn up exactly when needed, Mr Christie said coronavirus had compounded what otherwise might have been a manageable hiccup in deliveries.

"This year we've prioritised our core groceries - like toilet roll that takes up a lot of room on trucks - then we had delays due to COVID and now industrial action."

Aldi said its core food and grocery range was not affected by the delays.
Aldi said its core food and grocery range was not affected by the delays.

The company said the Christmas special buys should be delivered later in the week and over the weekend. Continuing delays are a possibility, but as the port backlog clears more product should get through.

Mr Christie also stressed that Aldi's every day offering of fresh and packaged food, beverages, toiletries and other products were not affected by the delays and would be in stores.

"Stay away if what you're after will not be in stock, but if you want the usual things like milk and bread you'll be fine."

The pre-lit tree has wowed bargain hunters in the past with some labelling it "the best $100 I've spent".

"I bought one three years ago and it is … better than my $400 one from David Jones that I had previously!" one person wrote in the Aldi Fans Australia Facebook group.

People also praised the tree's quick set-up saying it took just five minutes as all the branches were already attached.

Aldi also struggled with stocks of its air fryer n September.
Aldi also struggled with stocks of its air fryer n September.


But the delays in the trees getting to store is not the only Aldi annoyance at the moment.

Frustrated customers have said popular special buys, such as a $149 air fryer which arrived in September, have disappeared off shelves far too quickly.

Some shoppers claimed their store was sold out in minutes, with a customer at Mt Barker store in South Australia reporting it was just "three minutes and the four in stock were sold out".

"There were riots at my Aldi this morning," another claimed.

At the time, Aldi issued a warning over the limited supply of its special buy air fryer and said COVID-19 had impacted the delivery of some products.

"We apologise for any disappointment this might cause our customers, and remind everyone to shop with kindness in this challenging time," the statement, shared on Facebook, read.

Information on which Special Buys will be delayed in stores an be found at the Aldi website.

Originally published as Aldi's devastating special buys warning


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