As the German grocery war begins to heat up in Richmond, one side has found an ally in a local promotional product supplier.
Grocery chain Aldi, which is about to go head-to-head in Richmond with fellow Germany-based Lidl, has brought on locally based The Branding Agency to supply promotional items, brand signage and collateral for use in Aldi’s recruiting and hiring in U.S. markets.
Branding Agency president and sales director Ryan Andrews said Aldi is one of the biggest contracts the company has picked up in its 15-year history. Formerly called Venture Marketing, the company rebranded as The Branding Agency three years ago.
It operates from a warehouse it owns at 2281 Dabney Road, and picked up the business through a sales associate in Chicago, where Aldi was searching for a vendor to supply items for recruiter events and store openings, Andrews said.
He said the agency pitched the idea of an online portal, from which Aldi’s regional divisions could shop for and purchase branded items such as banners, table skirts, brochures, cards and items supplied to recruits. The company, which is part of national vendor supplier group Proforma, developed an online store on Aldi’s website and started building inventory in its 20,000-square-foot warehouse.
“This is the one area where they can house all the different print apparel and promotional items and signage, and all divisions are driven to this portal and they’re ordering from us,” Andrews said. “Everything is warehoused here in Richmond, and we drop shipment on a daily basis to whatever division ordered those particular items.
“Nine months in, it’s gone really smooth,” he said.
Andrews said the Aldi work started last summer, with the website portal online by the fourth quarter last year. Since then, items have gone out regularly to Aldi’s various divisions, which he said are aiming to continue the grocer’s national expansion westward to reach 2,100 stores by 2019 and 2,600 stores by 2022.
Andrews did not comment on the value of the contract or his company’s annual revenue or other clients. He listed NewClients Promotional Marketing, which just acquired a supplier in Alabama, as a local competitor, describing the Henrico-based distributor as “a few years ahead of us” in terms of growth.
“They’re definitely the biggest player in Richmond,” he said. “We’re in the top three or four.”
Between three office locations in Richmond, Chicago and Pittsburgh, Andrews said, The Branding Agency employs 20 people, most based locally. He said his 10 salespeople target local and out-of-town clients with big books of business.
Aldi has opened about a dozen stores in the Richmond area, ahead of competitor Lidl, which is planning to roll out its first stores this year. Aldi also is investing in the area with a $57 million, 500,000-square-foot distribution center in Dinwiddie County, on an 80-acre property at U.S. 460 and U.S. 1.