German discount grocery chain Aldi is considering entering the Chinese market as it seeks growth outside its traditional mature markets, according to a German magazine.
German monthly Manager Magazin said the families that own Aldi - comprising separate groups Aldi Sued and Aldi Nord - decided in February 2013 that they would look into expansion to China, citing the minutes of a recent management meeting.
It said Aldi Sued, which already runs almost 5,000 stores worldwide, would execute market entry into China while Aldi Nord would decide on which two countries to target next. The magazine did not give a time frame for the move.
Aldi Sued said it had been researching China as part of an ongoing process of looking at the potential of new markets but had not taken any decision about expanding to the country.
Family-run Aldi, the world's biggest discount store operator by sales, has previously been very cautious about expanding to emerging markets, focusing instead on Europe, the United States and Australia.
Consultancy Planet Retail said it did not expect Aldi to start operations in China before 2018.
"Aldi thinks in decades rather than years, so the general conditions and the long-term outlook with higher single-digit growth rates in real terms look promising (in China)," said Matthias Queck, research director at Planet Retail.
Global giants such as Carrefour and Tesco have struggled to succeed in China and discount supermarkets have not yet taken off as Chinese customers tend to prefer big brands rather than the own-label goods that dominate at Aldi and its German rival Lidl.
However, as they have reached saturation point at home, Aldi and Lidl have been adding more big names such as Coca-Cola, Nivea and Nutella to better compete with supermarkets.