I note that Paul Foley, managing director of Aldi’s UK and Irish division, has inexplicably stepped down after 20 years service at the German discount retailer.
When I say “inexplicably” I mean the company is coy about his reasons for going, resorting to the usual euphemisms of “departure by mutual consent” so he can “pursue new business interests”.
It is entirely possible that Foley has had enough after 20 years and would like to do something else. But I cannot help noticing that his departure coincides with a significant slowing of Aldi’s growth. This had been prodigious.
In a like vein, rival discount chain Lidl recently announced a change of policy in Ireland. It said that, because of consumer demand, it would in future be stocking fewer discount lines and more brands.
Have we got a trend here? Analysts say maybe we have. It’s called Tesco, which has done damage to the discounters by successfully launching its own discount ranges to cater for belt-tightened times.
But I wonder whether something more significant is playing out. Perhaps what we have here is the Aldi Prosperity Index in action, and it’s indicating not that the recession is over but that the beginning of the end is nigh. The discounters are recession bellwethers whose pace tends to slacken once the worst is over.
The Aldi Prosperity Index may not sound a very scientific indicator, but then neither is the Champagne Index, the Taxi Availability Index or, my own favourite, the Marketing Week Recruitment Page Count in the second week of January (generally the largest volume of the year).
There it is then, a new economic indicator – the Aldi Prosperity Index, which works on the inverse principle that the slower Aldi’s growth rate, the more prosperous we will be.