Entertaining real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life
Entertaining and compelling real-life stories with valuable lessons on how to succeed in business and in life. The author is successful business, real estate, and media entrepreneur Dick Kazan.
Published on February 17th, 2015

How two brothers with no money in post-World War ll Germany built an international grocery store empire.

Karl Albrecht and Theo Albrecht
Karl Albrecht and Theo Albrecht  

Karl and Theo Albrecht began what today are Aldi North and South, which have nearly 10,000 stores located in much of Europe, Australia and the United States.

How this happened, despite starting with no money is a fascinating story, a story which began in 1945, right after World War ll ended.

Karl and Theo were German soldiers who returned to their home in Essen after being released from Allied prisoners-of-war camps.

Their parents owned a small grocery store, which was somehow still standing despite over 200 Allied bombings of Essen.

Karl and Theo took over the store.

With Germany in ruins, and its money nearly worthless, most Germans struggled to get enough to eat, and for many, there was little or no work.

There were rampant food shortages and food was rationed, as people stood in long lines each day hoping their food stamps would be honored before that day's food ran out.

Karl and Theo scrambled to obtain food, knowing many of the people in those lines had children and other family members to feed.

Having no money, they had to run a no frills operation. There were no fancy displays, just food and other essential items piled high.

But out of this dire situation, the brothers learned valuable lessons that led them to great success with Aldi.

By running a barebones operation, they kept their costs down, allowing them to sell at remarkably low prices to their customers.

"Our only consideration when we are working out a product's price is how cheaply we can sell it," Karl once said. The Aldi name is an abbreviation of "Albrecht Discount."

Even after Germany's post war economic troubles ended, shoppers still flocked to their stores.

For Karl and Theo had taken the profits from the first store and opened a second store, and as it became profitable, they opened another and another.

By 1960, they had 300 stores, and to this day, Aldi keeps opening stores.

As in the past, Aldi offers relatively few items and at sharply discounted prices, turnover is quick, spoilage minimal, and labor costs are comparatively low.

With nearly 10,000 stores, their wholesale purchasing power is enormous, and customers reap the benefit.

Karl, who at 94 passed away in 2014 and Theo, who at 88, passed away in 2010, were active in the business for most of their lives.

Their sons now manage the business, a business with thousands of employees, as millions of customers save money in their stores every day.

Editor's Note: To learn more: click here, here, here, here, and here.

Aldi South's holdings include the Trader Joe's U.S. chain of 418 stores, which in itself generates over $11 billion in annual sales.

In the next KazanToday: The man who led Trader Joe's to become the company it is today.

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